Monday, April 13, 2020

K is for Kingdom of Kitchen #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers, 
Today's post is written like a fairy tale. All the characters are real and all references to them are intended. The events in the tale are real, well mostly.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy it.
The Kingdom of Kitchen

Under Beji's rule, many monsoons ago, the Kingdom of Kitchen flourished. All its subjects ate delicious food and drank tasty drinks.

The kingdom was small and neat. Everything had a place and there was a place for everything.

It is said that Beji, the Most Powerful, adhered to very strict rules of conduct inside the kingdom. Foolish ministers who forgot those rules were punished severely. They were given clear and precise warnings to mend their ways and if they continued with their follies, sharp arrows of taunts were fired by Beji.

The two most important ministers of the Kingdom of Kitchen, who were known by their names of Mummy and Chachi, could sometimes be heard whispering to each other, out of earshot:

"Don't we have anything else to do all day?" One minister would goad the other.

"Who will look after the princesses' education and their training in the fine art of Recall of Times Tables?"  The other would add ghee to the fire of discontent.

The princesses of the land where Beji ruled from her throne in the chauka (kitchen) thought the ministers to be too uptight and not at all fair. Beji was, after all, the Most Benevolent, the Most Kind and the Most Awesome maker of kheer. (rice pudding)

Stories of praise for Beji's kheer, ma ki daal, paranthe and rajma travelled far and wide. 

So, messengers from all four directions, from countries and kingdoms of the West, the North, The South and the East were sent on secret missions to steal her masale ka dabba (spice box).

It was believed by one and all that Beji, the Most Ingenious, stored her magical powers in the dabba when she retired for the night.

Rulers of Lesser Kitchens, the Emperor of the Not so Tasty Foodland, Heads of States of Inediblabad and Pheekapur as well as the Nawab of Beswaadkhanagunj were the first ones to send their spies. Some say that the Head of  State of Inediblabad came himself, disguised as a cousin three times removed.

The Most Amazing and the Most Clever Beji would graciously agree to grant all those who called upon her an audience with her and ask her ministers to serve them feasts of freshly prepared food. 

The messengers would be so full and sleepy after eating paneer ke paranthe -- crispy on the outside but soft on the inside: stuffed with malaidaar paneer (cottage cheese) flavoured with cumin, fresh coriander, chillies and ajwain; topped with fluffy white butter and served with a tall glass of lassi --that they would ask the ministers for a munjhi to rest instead of the recipe.

So powerful was the magic in Beji's food the after their naps in the Royal Gardens, under the shade of the Mighty Mulberry, the messengers would wake up fresh and rejuvenated, forgetting all about their mission and the dabba. 

Despite their grudges and the long, long hours of court attendance, minister Mummy and minister Chachi always agreed that the Most Brilliant Beji was the best maker of food in all of the lands.

One day, the little princess who was very, very hungry came running into Beji's chauka and asked for food.

The two ministers were busy looking into the urgent matters of drying the laundry in the garden, so Beji, the Most Benevolent, was by herself.

"Aaja be puttar." (Come sit child) She said without turning around from the chulha (stove) where a roti was bellowing up with air. "Thoda chir sabar kar." (Be patient for a bit)

The princess watched as Beji, the Fearless, picked the hot, hot phoola hua phulka (roti) off the tawa with her fingers and placed it on a steel thali where two other rotis were lying folded up like pocket squares.

"Ikk gaan da. Ikk kutte da. Te Ikk kowwe da.
(One for the cow. One for the dog. And one for the crow.) Beji, the Fair One, counted the rotis and left them to cool.

 Then she picked up her belana (rolling pin) and rolled out one for the princess.

When the little princess's tummy was full and when the ministers were back to take charge of the chulha, the Most Kind Beji stepped outside and asked the princess to join her.

They walked hand in hand: crossing the grey land of nikka veda, passing under the guava tree at the edge of the expanse of vada veda till they reached the very edge of the kingdom--right where the Big Metal Gate stood.

The Most Gentle Beji opened the gate and fed Cow first. She mooed her thank you. 

Next, She put the roti on the ground for Dog. He wagged his tail and looked happy.

"Hon kawwe dee vaaree..." (Now, Crow's turn) she told the princess and started breaking the last roti into small, little pieces so Crow would have no trouble in picking them off the veda and the chhajja  (verandah and overhang).

For many years, in the land ruled by Beji, the Most Generous, her subjects enjoyed delicious food cooked by her and every day for as long as she cooked, Cow, Dog and Crow got their share before any adult Human did.
------The End------
This short video was made in May 2019, on our last day of Kuari Pass Trek

At lunch times, Beji always kept aside food for dogs, cows and birds before serving the family. Usually, the same stray animals turned up at the gate at precisely lunch time. Crows are considered messengers of Yama, the God of Death and some say they are connected to the spirits of our departed ancestors. I haven't done any research on this and am relying entirely on what I heard when I was growing up.
If you know more,  please do tell.
******************
Are there any food memories from your early years you'd like to share?
What was your most favourite food/dish? And what was your least favourite?

(Photo clicked in Auli, Uttarakhand, May 2019)

38 comments:

  1. Such a lovely fairy tale! And now I'm really hungry for some rice pudding...

    The Multicolored Diary

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  2. Lovely tale/true story ;) My food memory is related to rice too! My mom used to make rice pudding during the winter, when we were skiing in a family resort. After a morning spent skiing, it was good to make a stop and share the meal, and enjoy the sweet desert ;)
    K is for Kaleidoscope

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  3. Hari OM
    Ooohhh, I was transported to the magical land! What a delight. My mother was not a natural cook and struggled to make things that we would happily eat. I learned early and do have kitchen ability... and one of my joys has been learning many different variations in Indian cuisine. Getting recipes of 'aunties' has been a wonderful challenge!!! YAM xx

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    1. Yes 'aunties' are always very resourceful:)
      Happy to know you enjoy cooking Indian recipes Yam.

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  4. A delightful piece of 'faction'! Given that I would have been happy to live on nothing but baked beans on toast as a kid, it's surprising I ended up as a chef! Having traveled throughout different parts of India over the past few years I have developed a passion for preparing Indian food in my home for guests.

    K is for ...

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    1. I like 'faction' very much. Cheers Keith. I may try it out again--it was fun to write.
      Your guests are so lucky. Would love yo know what your signature Indian dish is.

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  5. Superb! No one goes hungry in Beji's kingdom! I loved the short Kuari Pass video!!

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    1. Cheers Archana. Thank you for dropping by.

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  6. My mother still rolls out rotis for the cow and the crow. The interspersed Punjabi gave such a rustic flavour to the kingdom.

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  7. My maternal grandparents saved all the leftovers from dinner and preparation. My grandmother cut them up small and my grandfather put them on the homemade bird feeder in the garden.

    When I was little, I didn't like to eat anything. I remember hiding my food under a chicken wing. And my fork was so heavy. I was a sickly kid. Later, I loved to eat and do to this day.

    Finding Eliza

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  8. Wise woman as a benevolent hub of the community. Wonderful (and delicious) story.

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  9. Lovely one! Going back in time, my mother used to make sweet snacks, one of them was 'diamond cuts', because of its shape. I also used to look forward to 'pooris' and the the curry to go with it that had a very unique taste I loved so much, which only my mother could make it! Those were the days!

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    1. So true Pradeep. Food prepared by mothers and grandmothers is truly magical.

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  10. I had not heard of this story before. Kudos to MasterChef Beji. :-)

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    1. Cheers Parkash. I never attached the masterchef title to Beji. Now I will. I like it:)

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  11. What a lovely read.... Such a nice narrative and I just loved the awesome fairy tale touch... It really took me back to my grandparents place again... Seeing my granny as the queen who ruled her kitchen... Feeding us hungry kids and the dogs, the pigeons, the cows.. Your posts are just superb. So nostalgic and takes us all down the memory lane to those moments of pure bliss!!

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    1. It pleases my heart to read your comment Ira. It's lovely to have company on this journey down memory lane.

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  12. My grandmother was the keeping of our family recipes and was always making something. My favorite was her clam fritters that she would make from the quahogs my Dad and Uncle would dig from the ocean. She would grind them, dip them in batter and fry them. So good.Weekends In Maine

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    1. Although I'm not too fond of clams but your recall of a happy memory is making me go..mmmmmm:)

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  14. How I loved your Beji's Kingdom of Kitchen!! Its either your wonderful narrations or the Power of your Beji's legacy,all make a complete picture of her & her beautiful world. Her art & expertise with food,the aroma of the fresh cooked parathas,rotis(tempted me to cook Paneer ke Parathe for today's dinner ..thank you Beji)the Minister's nok jhoks, ground rules of her kingdom and being the most kind humble heart Beji all so so tastefully & skillfully cooked in your fairytale. Loved the infamous Rulers mention around Beji's world too so creative that was.
    K for me would be Knives. Its strange genes but my Periappa ( Tauji) my Appa and now me...we love collecting sharp knives (mine is by far the poorest collection).No one knife could be used for all veggies or fruits. Right from Coconut we have specific knives for every vegetable and each dish had a specific way of cutting the veggies. ( Ground rules started from here)
    Food is such an integral part of our life. And every dish,recipe, veggies, fruits all have interesting stories too. Have you heard stories of why Onions make you cry? Or why the boiling milk rise up when hot & cools down immediately when the gas is off?
    Yes we too had many do's and don'ts not just kitchen it extended right upto table manners. Not one day we could start eating without serving the crows & its followed till date. Jhoota khana was a complete No No, only exceptions were mothers who could eat the left over of her kids, rice pot couldn't be touched with the same hand as the curry', there would be a plate of water to softly cleanse the finger tip before we reach the rice pot & many such.
    If you see any Tam Bram house hold (those days),the lady of the house who normally gets up first, had to take a shower before entering her Kitchen. You must have seen in your Madurai visit, every household would have small or big Kolams (Rangolis) put outside their houses. These were not for aesthetic reason alone. These welcome designs were to be put compulsory every morning. These Kolams were made of rice flour which could be a wet or dry.Like feeding the crows, its a belief that if we use the rice flour, we could actually feed the many ants who are forever busy working in teams. They are the first to enter your house, so they will never go unfed, infact they shall bless you....Yes Amuma had 100s of such stories with her.
    Fav home food will be Rasam, Adai & Aviyal till date. I used to hate idlys as a kid because it was made that often....but today i can eat them at midnight too.

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    1. As you get to know my Beji through this month of April Vidya, I get to fall in love with your Amuma. What a lovely system we have in place.
      That ant story is sublime.
      How did we (as a race) start from being so considerate towards all animals, big and small, and reach this point where we are ready to cut trees and destroy their habitats?
      Our grannies would've made excellent conservationists.

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  15. Oooh, I am utterly charmed by the tale of Kingdom of Kitchen, and wish to visit there immediately. I would wish to go as a little princess though, and forego the duties of being a minister.

    I love, love, love the practice of offering food to the cow, the crow and the dog.

    My grandmother was a baker of delicious treats, and every Saturday she made something wonderful for us. One of my fondest memories is "helping" her make donuts - I was in charge of pressing the glass into the dough - both the big glass for the donut, and the little glass to cut the hole. I felt immensely important.

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    1. I can imagine little Deborah, in long braids, cutting the doughnuts. And it's a very happy image to behold. Cheers for that:)

      You're welcome to visit the kingdom anytime. Just close your eye and Voila! you'll reach in no time.

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  16. Oh, this is so beautiful and delightful! The Kingdom of Kitchen indeed. I could easily picturize Beji with the relatives, smiling at others and teaching the princess to be kind to animals (all without preaching).

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    1. Thank you Srivalli. Indeed, all our learning was through osmosis, not lectures:)

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  17. Another fascinating tale Arti. Loved your Beji's Kitchen of Kingdom.

    I loved this line, "Everything had a place and there was a place for everything." it speaks volume about the meticulous way things were organized in your Beji's kitchen.

    Well, my food memory, special food on Annakoot day, the day after Diwali. We used to have hundreds of variety of food, different varieties of sabjis, including suran ki sabji, and one main dish, gadda-badda sabji, which was prepared by adding 20-25 vegetables, dal, rice, chapati, puri, kachori, pakode, kheer, mooli ka kass, nimbu ki adrak, aloo papad, dal papad, chutney, bajra ki khichdi, pickle and what nots. I must be forgetting many more things, after all its 24 years, since I have eaten this mahaprasad.

    Regarding the other part, my mother would prepare chapati for cow which she would call gau-gras as one chapati means a morsel for a cow, then first food would be offered to deities, we have laddoo gopalji in our temple, and he is considered like a family member. Once the food is offered to deities, then we can have it.

    Beautiful read, as always. Love and regards, Nisha

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  18. Thank you Nisha. I've made note of your Annakoot feast as some of the dishes you mention are new to me. Will google and see if I can get the recipes.
    Your Ladoo Gopalji sound so cute.
    Love. xx

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  19. Your Beji sounds wonderful. Her heart is definitely made of gold. You were very correct when you said "Crows are considered messengers of Yama, the God of Death and some say they are connected to the spirits of our departed ancestors". We feed crows too for the same reason. In my grandma's house, humans and pets will get their food only after the crow has had its share. This post got my mouth salivating and my stomach rumbling!

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    1. Thank you Shweta. I hope you managed to appease your rumbling tummy:)

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  20. All these lovely snippets from your childhood remind me of my Ammamma’s cooking - she was a fantastic cook of course and she too followed the belief that God’s creatures deserved to be fed before the two-legged ones .
    Often wonder how all grannies were such fantastic cooks !

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    1. They fed us love Sharmila--tempered with food:)

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  21. Beautiful! My grandma used to make extra rotis for cow, dog and sone unexpected guests. She used to say that if someone just turns up, and people did sometimes in the era before telephone and emails were common, there should be food readily available for them!

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    1. Thank you for sharing. Please let me know your name so I may acknowledge you properly.

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