Food connoisseur - Chandra didi

Sunita Giri 12:03 AM |

I am ok if you call me foodie, because that what I am. My favorite channel is TLC, and my favorite shows are masters chefs USA or Australia I watch all competitions regardless of amateur, junior, senior or star chefs. No wonder, I know most of the famous food connoisseurs that ever graced our TV sets like Nigella Lawson, Dona Hay, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Julia Child or Madhu Jaffrey. These are the personality I know much better than the rock star you are fond of, its just like they are big celebrities in the world and I must know their name. Its not easy for me to remember since when I started having keen inclination towards gourmet food or the art of culinary.

Knowing where I come from and the kind of food I grew up eating, I think its bit unusual for me to be interested in gourmet food or culinary art. Because, where I come from; we   eat somewhat plain food. Cooking to finish the task is more important than knowing the art how to make it delicious or making it healthy as well as making it to please our eyes and nose. One thing for sure working in five star hotel and having bosses who have clear ideas how to cook. Then working in the environment with the people who keep suggesting the party throwing what they should keep in their menu so that their host will talk about it for months to come;  must have gave me this idea of cooking and then learn to enjoy life.

But, before I started working in hotel there was Chandra didi who was fond of good food than the rest of the people in Bal Mandir. If there was a festival or a special day to celebrate in Bal Mandir, Chandra didi was always the one, most wanted person during such occasions. Be it big festivals like Dashian & Tihar or small occasion like making a pickle of cucumber or new type of curry that was never tried out before, she used to come forward with her knowledge to share. She is the first person in my life who I can say knew the the art of culinary.  During dashain, remember occasion even cook used to come to her to seek her opinions asking for how much particular spices to add in the meat and how long they should keep it aside before they cook. She was the one who used to make pickles in big clay pots for 200 people to rejoice for weeks.

Here what I really must tell my readers that, she was not the cook to prepare food for all. She just had the ideas what makes good food and how to make tasty and delicious food. There were cooks, who used to prepare food for all. During 80s era people were very traditional and non flexible to other caste people making food for all. The cook must be brahmin and there is no exception to this fact.  It was not necessary they know cooking or not but they must be brahmin. The interest and knowledge part was given least importance than the caste base work therefore, people gave more importance to the caste not the knowledge. By this standard she was Shrestha woman definitely not the one who are trusted to enter in the kitchen and then make food for all caste people. But her knowledge was trusted to make good food there was no doubt about it.

Most of the time I was mere observer of what she did, Very rarely I was picked up by her to assist her to mash and then mix hot lupsi pulp to mix in the pickle she was preparing. I am not sure for this  whether she used to work in palace cook team before her posting here in Bal Mandir or not but the name she used to take or the process of making some of the dishes was sure not for the common people to enjoy. That I am sure of.

I am really surprised how come I could not make the best pickle like her, when I grew up watching her for so many years ? Now, I really have tried it so hard for many years and then I really can wow anytime you drops at my place for lunch or dinner during dashain.

When I really need to feel good about by treating myself the food I would like to master, it sure is more the food I grew up eating with not the food I watch on TV. When I say   I would like to master some culinary art it has to do  direct connection with to the food I grew up eating during festival times in Bal Mandir. Although, I was not in the age to keep my eyes on those who make it, instead of mastering how to finish it faster than it was made, however its not easy for me to remember when was the year she was not there to help make festival foods. It may be that, because, I do not remember a big day - Dashain & Tihar - without good and quality food on our plates and I must have presumed that she was always there to make sure the food is good. Let me add one more important thing here as long as the housemother Kedar shrestha was there to supervise, she took the task in hand making sure the festival foods do not reduce its quality than the year before.  

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