City Food – Dussehra Dal, Vasundhara
Heralding the new season.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Every primary school essayist can tell you that the Hindu festival of Dussehra is observed in Delhi and in many parts of North India to mark the victory of good over evil. The day also marks a change in season. The humid rainy months start to give way to cooler days.
The annual shift in the weather is reflected most aptly in the city’s home kitchens.
The Dussehra spread in many houses consists of urad dal and rice. The tradition has rural links. The farmers have presently finished harvesting paddy along with urad – symbolically making this meal straight from the fields.
However, the aforementioned dal is had throughout the year. Its significance on Dusshera lies in the story of a dying season leaving behind its new riches for us.
Hindu customs are fantastically diverse. There are varied cooking styles in different regions as well as in the same region, partly based on lifestyles unique to individual castes and sub-castes. Many privileged caste households in Delhi eat urad dal and rice on Dussehra. But many privileged caste households in Delhi celebrate the same day by feasting on mutton curry – these non-vegetarians happen to be members of the mercantile Kayastha caste whose forefathers aligned with the Muslim nobility during the Mughal era.
The Delhi Walla had the Dusshera-special urad dal in a kshatriya home in east Delhi’s Vasundhara. The food was first served to the gods in the household’s little temple, and then to a Mother Cow wandering outside the apartment complex, and only then it was laid out on the family table.
The ginger-flavoured brown dal was tempered with cumin seeds crackling in piping hot ghee. It was accompanied with lauki raita. The white rice had a fresh earthy flavor.
Meanwhile winters crops must now be raised in the faraway fields.
On this day every year