Memories of a happy childhood are based on the simplest things in life – food made lovingly by a parent
7/9/2014 2:01:26 PM
|written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla|
Hunger is the best appetiser, as the saying goes. Looking back on my Spartan boarding school days in a misty hill station in North India I realise hunger was a constant. Not the nutritionally deprived kind but the heartsick longing for comforting sustenance that was redolent of home and my mother.
Home, when I was very young, was in the remotest reaches of Northeast India where my father, who worked for the Indian government, was posted. I may have been home for less than three months of the year but the scars of the nine relentless months of regimented British-style boarding school life with English and Irish nuns evaporated the minute we got on the little eight-seater Otter plane. Every winter, the little plane was the magic carpet that took us home to Mechukha, a stunningly beautiful place nestled in an alpine valley in what is now Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern Himalayas.
There is an innocence that only deprivation can bring and this manifested itself the most through food. I have never felt as fortunate as I did when dining on those home-made meals of my childhood holidays and thinking nobody else could be more sumptuously pampered. None of the dishes would be considered fit for a royal feast by a gourmand’s standards but to me they were ambrosia and I was the richest girl in the world. The food would usually be the simplest but utterly delicious dishes lovingly made over a primitive wood-fire chula (stove) by my magician mother. Puri and aloo ka achar, plump, juicy cottage cheese momos, savoury mutton siruwa (soup) and warm butter cake fresh out of her makeshift oven.