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Monsoon of Memories: The Many Flavors of an Indian Winter

By Purva Grover Email By Purva Grover
December 2022
Monsoon of Memories: The Many Flavors of an Indian Winter

There is hunger and then there’s the hunger of Indian winters. The latter is for those with large appetites and still larger cravings for all things heartwarming.

[Left] Besan wala doodh (Photo: IndianRecipesInHindi.com)

As a child, when I’d soak in the sun on the terrace and bite into generous portions of radish and cucumber slices (I didn’t know the French word, crudités, for such servings), all I knew was that rock salt and chaat masala sprinkled on those slices made my winter afternoons shinier. Sitting on the floor or on wicker chairs, I used to snuggle up with a book as I chomped on winter goodies—my elder siblings and I taking turns annoying each other with the loudest of chewing sounds.

Looking back, I realize how I never described my share of winter food with regular adjectives like tasty or yummy. Each of the snacks, beverages, and meals that we ate around that time of the year was christened with the story and emotions behind it. There was the besan wala doodh, a gram flour, milk, and nuts preparation which looked pretty unpalatable if I were to describe it today, especially with a layer of ghee floating on top; and yet, it was the beverage that we waited for all through the year. Mum made it only when it got really cold. It was our tucked-into-quilt-at-night treat. Then there was the sweet-gummy dessert of jaggery and peanuts, a homemade treat that left our hands sticky, but lick-worthy. We relished it slowly because it was served piping hot.MoMWinter_2_12_22.jpg

A winter Sunday favorite was aloo-poori with the lingering aroma of garam masala and ginger. The meal was made complete with homemade pickles, especially mango and lemon, as they got ready to be eaten around this time after being pickled in summer. Mum and dad insisted that we eat our meal quickly while the pooris were still hot and puffy.

[Right] Carrots and cauliflower pickle (Photo Rachel Gurjar)

The other pickle, which could be made only in winter, was the one made with carrots, turnips, and cauliflower. This semi-sweet pickle tasted best—and still does—with paranthas, whether stuffed or plain. While there were no set rules on how many pieces of pickle we could savor, we were told to limit the intake. I remember being thankful for that because of one specific reason. Our little tummies needed to keep space for another cold weather favorite—the unbeatable sarson ka saag and makki ki roti. The saag, made of all things healthy and green, was really heavy on the stomach, especially when eaten with makki ki roti, dollops of ghee, and a chunk of jaggery. One could only do one thing after eating it—fall into a deep slumber of contentment.

Even now, my winter continues to be dotted with aromas, spices, and sights that I absorbed, relished, over-consumed, and now recreate in my kitchen whenever I can. If you ask me what I love about winters, I’d say being home in New Delhi, eating a bowl of choori. In my family, choori is only-dad-can-make-it dish with leftover rotis, ghee, and sugar.

Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at grover.purva@gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to letters@khabar.com.


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