One country, many ‘wadis’

The sun-dried lentil 'wadi' is both a culinary craft and a pantry staple across the kitchens of India

After my paternal grandfather’s death, my grandmother, an unyielding conformist, insisted on a strictly vegetarian diet, “as befits the widow of a Brahmin". Her meals were to be cooked separately too. Besides, she had a special pantry—a small, wooden cupboard with mesh doors, where she stocked her staples like muri (puffed rice), khoi (popped rice) and an assortment of sun-dried pellets of ground pulses, collectively known as bori. These boris were added to the range of ghontos, chorchori, jhaal and jhol that comprised my grandmother’s vegetarian meals.

Traditionally, in a Bengali widow’s strictly vegetarian kitchen circumscribed by oppressive strictures, the humble bori took on a more important role. It not only brought some variety and texture to her frugal meals, but also added a “meaty" bite to mushy vegetable dishes.

In times gone by, the widows of the house, often entrusted with the household’s “vegetarian" kitchen, would also be in charge of making huge batches of bori. In Ashapurna Debi’s fêted novel Pratham Pratisruti, the orthodox widow Mokshada is found mulling over her autumnal ritual of making bori, a task she trusts no one else with. “The household required about fourteen maunds of bori—both the kitchens used them but the responsibility rested with the vegetarian kitchen." And it’s not just one kind. Debi writes, “They were made from white pumpkin, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cumin seeds; some were crispy, some spicy. Then there were lentil boris for sour and bitter curries—they had so many uses!"...Read more


Source web page: Live mint

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