Dashain delicacies, past and present

Sunita Giri 11:26 PM |

“How was the food” Mrs. Shrestha asked me, as I was about to leave Prabina Home. “It was ok”, I replied in response, hearing that she asked me again “just ok, was not food good,” I know, she does not like me to say it was okay, she expects me to say it was very good but I did not find the food better than okay, so I could not say it was good.

Its very strange of her to take my comments seriously. But if I advise her to do things the way I think its good she will dismiss it instantly, just like the guy, I dated couple of years ago and my not agreeing with his view was the whole universe to him. Could never understand what that mean nor I will ever be able understand this kind of mentally in future.

Its been three years, Prabina Home has started organising Dashain party. Always aroud the Ghatasthapa. Its a party for all those who is associated with Prabina Foundation, students who are boarded in different school of valley, student who are in college, children in the Prabina Home and then there are many ex-students like me. This is the 3rd year of such party. The number has increased more than a hundred people from 50-55 from the first year. Anybody can understand, its not easy to make food for that many people.

Dashain, falls on the month of October, it may start occasionally on late September; but the big day will inevitably falls on October. October is the month of clear sky, doted beautifully with colorful kites. Delicious aroma of food wafts from kitchen, filling the whole ambiance with good mood. When the word Dashain is mentioned, it brings so many good memories of past; specially childhood memories, which is invariable associated with foods and good food only, all good and nothing bad. New clothes, swinging ping and long vacation came alone with the festival season.

We all agree with the fact that, food has a strong power to communicate so many things with its look, scent, taste and flavour. It feeds your soul, emotion and bring back your memories or send you back in memory lane. Specially, when its festival food; as food is the prime focus of all festivals. The aroma of meat, fresh pickles of potatoes and radish fills the whole environment bringing all the excitement of hard work. It was a pure luxury; just to take a sniff of it, and strangely all that lasts in our mind forever.

Oh ! how this festival reminds me of the time; I have spent in Bal Mandir, most importantly Dashain, reminds me of the kind of food we had during Dashain.

Meat, lots of meat varieties used to be one of the best part of Dashain. But not just meat, other food stuffs were also part of it. People around the world knows; that, best food are always saved to make [and eat] during the big festival of the year.

A day before Ghatasthapana, eleven goats used to enter in Bal Mandir on rickshaw. Some urchins used to put hands on the back side of it, when they were urinating, then they used to smeared it on their mouth, which made them to turn up there upper lips. We the children used to clap saying , “look, they are laughing.”

If you have ever seen a laughing goat, I am sure you are going to agree with me, that it brings smile on your face every time, somebody mentions about it; for many more years perhaps decades to come.

About 10 days before Ghatasthapana started, Didis [room nannies], specially younger ones used to be busy grinding cumin and coriander, chillies lots of red chillies and garam masalas [hot spices]. Older ones used to help make meat varieties and pickles. Radish and peas, potatoes and peas, stuffed cucumber in big clay pot, and then leave it to mature for about two months under the hot summer months, prior to Dashain.

On the day of Maha asthami, they used to slaughter five goats. Male staff and boys used to be busy in meat department for cutting, boiling water to clean the slaughtered goats, some boys used to steal ears or cut the small parts of that half cut neck of goat to barbecue. Big girls used to help cut meat, vegetables and onions. Small children used to stay in a big round shape to peal garlics and gingers. On the centre of us there used to be bowels to keep garlic and ginger separately. Then an old but sturdy man used to grind ginger and garlic for meat and pickles.

Doing work and lots of work together used to bring the festive vibe so strongly, which made food so tasty. There was a woman named Chandra Didi, who was exceptionally, good to make food varieties. pickles and meat were her strength. I think she used to work in palace prior to her post in Bal Mandir, must have been in kitchen department. And most importantly, may be it was the housemother Kedar Shrestha, who has got high taste-bud and she made sure that everything is perfect during Dashian. Everybody used to work hard to make sure Dashain will be celebrated picture perfect way.

There used to be so many varieties of meats, fried intestine and stomachs, fried livers and lungs, they used to cook separately blood only, then there was meat and only meat varieties. There used to be enough meat for the big day, for 200 children. They not only looked yummy but teased our taste bud for a whole year too. The food which I used to have during the festival time, was so good that, I have not had any opportunity to taste it anywhere, any better than I used to get a chance to eat in Bal Mandir.

Usually normal food served at Bal Mandir, was not worth mentioning. In fact, its good if we could forget it, for so many reasons, but the food during festival is not only hard but impossible to forget in this lifetime. No one has ever gave me the opportunity to taste that good food; not yet.

Therefore my answer is going to disappoint Mrs. Shrestha always. I know that her project gets enough budget for this particular program as it is a biggest festival of our country but the taste of food and perhaps the meat item is so not up to the mark to give it a festive feel and mood.

I am a big fan of Chef Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen, and his brutally honest comments, is some thing keeps my breath at hold. So if I have to pretend I am him and to review the food they served in the Prabina Home, I might give it only four out of ten. The look of food really lacks the pure interest of makers, poorly spiced, fit for the bed ridden people on hospital, weary and very pale looking sole meat item of a chicken curry, overcooked potatoes for pickles and curry also. Of course there was variety of curries but its not the important part, unless its scent makes you hungry, brings water in your mouth and has the power to stay in your mind forever. Foods were looking so forgettable looks and it only gave me the vibe how tired and uninterested people were, while they were making it. They must have been thinking they would rather be somewhere else, than making this food. The curd on the big bowel was less than a day old, so needless to tell you it was runny not the frozen. I am sure they have to throw most of it as many people stay away from it. The foods also lacked the sheer energy, it failed to impress me in terms of bringing joy and add the mood of the festival, unlike the food delicacies they used to serve in Bal Madir.

That's why I strongly believe food tells it all. If spices and flavour on it tell you, the taste of the chef then the look and vibe of it tells you their kitchen habit.

Food tells you a whole story.

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