“Bahu...thoda dhyan se krna, Kashmiri aunty khane ke mamle me thoda sanjeeda hai… par dil ki boht achi hai. (Be careful my child, Kashmiri aunty is a bit fussy about food...but she’s very nice at heart…”) said my mother in law as she’s getting ready to go to the temple.
Her friends are coming over this evening to meet her brand new daughter in law (me) and enjoy ‘bahu ke haath ka khana.’ Now let me give you a glimpse of our tradition here. It is a ritual that when a girl gets married and goes to her in law’s home, she is expected to cook something for relatives or friends and in return they give gifts as a token of love and blessing.
Kashmiri aunty is our neighbor and my mum in law’s close friend. Her family migrated from Kashmir to New Delhi a few decades ago. And since then she has been known by this name, nobody knows why; but it seems she also takes pride in being called out by this name, perhaps it reminds her about her homeland, the land of her ancestors left far behind, in a forlorn hope of returning someday.
I entered the kitchen, a bit cautious about all the intimations given by Maa regarding her friend’s likes and dislikes. One of them did not like potatoes while the other couldn't have sweets because of diabetes. So after fiddling with my grey matter for a while I finally settled down with ‘matar ki chaat’, veg kabab & dal vada followed by tea, and accordingly started working on it. Thankfully everything was ready on time and I waited for their arrival gripped by a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.
Finally the doorbell rings.
The aunties walk in and a casual conversation begins about home and family along with the snacks I made for them earlier this afternoon.
As I served them the ‘chaat’ one aunty asked, “beta ye kahan ki chaat banayi hai (she meant that this chaat belongs from which place in India. Yes, we do have our own differences when it comes to savoring street food;)
And before I could answer, another statement came from Kashmiri aunty, “tum bengali aaloo boht khate ho” (you bengali people eat too much potato. I guess our love for potatoes is no secret;)
“Did you put sweet chutney on my plate, I have diabetes” one more question from another aunty. I was being bombarded with questions at a faster pace than the Indian Air Force bombarded Balakot.
All of a sudden my Bihari instinct awakened;) and I replied, “Aunty fikr na karen, ye Bihar ki chaat hai. Wahan ke logon ki tarah wahan ki chaat bhi boht adjusting hai, har kisi ke sath adjust kr leti hai;)”...this chaat is from Bihar and just like it’s people, the food also gets adjusted according to one’s requirement. And they burst out in laughter.
After a while Kashmiri aunty came to me and said, “taste doesn’t come from ingredients, it comes when you cook from a heart full of love.”
I still have to figure out the name of this dish. Should I call it Bihari Chaat or Kashmiri aunty wali chaat? However little did I know that a recipe curated merely to suit one’s taste buds would go a long way and become my go to recipe for SCD chaat.