Hey guys, it’s a wonderful morning and I’ve just loaded up on fresh vegetables from the local mandi. Something I really enjoy doing. In fact, one of the to-dos on my bucket list is actually visiting the popular Farmers’ Markets in Europe, especially France and Britain, and getting a first-hand feel of buying locally-grown herbs and greens. I think I can spend all day amidst fragrant rosemary, curly-green kale, purple Swiss Chard, crunchy lettuce and juicy lime.
Every time I watch my all-time favourite chef Jamie Oliver ( I am in love with him!) extol the virtues of a freshly-plucked fennel bulb or a newly-dug sweet potato from his kitchen garden, I just feel like moving out of this urban jungle and living in a quaint farm somewhere. The point I am trying to make is I come from a family of vegetable lovers. My grandpa had one of the loveliest kitchen gardens. I love vegetables. All vegetables. Even stuff like arbi ke patte, chichinda (go on Google that one…ha!), petha, guwar phalli and yam! There’s something very earthy, very nourishing, very Satvik about vegetables. And in my meals all through childhood, which was fortunately spent across India thanks to my dad’s transferable job, I got a taste of a veritable smorgasbord of vegetables. If Chittaranjan in the East introduced me to the delicious kele ke phool ki saabji, Hyderabad down South got me my very first taste of the tangy Gongura pickle! Yum! Later, Bangkok opened up a whole new range of culinary experiences, as did Cairo.
Now imagine my situation, when I get married to this guy whose entire list of vegetables starts with alu (bah!), moves on to gobi, bhindi and ENDS with matar!!! Throw some paneer in, and I had practically said “I do” to a lifelong shuffling of just 3 vegetables (alu does NOT count) in innovative combinations! OMG! Nightmare!
That’s when I decided, things HAVE to change. This will not do. Making the decision was the easy bit, the implementation was super tricky. I mean you can’t just start making baigan, karela, lauki, kaddu and simply expecting the husband to smile and tow the line. So the very first thing I did was start with this thing restaurants fancily call Navraatan vegetables, whatever that means. To me it’s mixed veg in different spice combinations. Mine was phoolgobi, gajar, matar, beans and paneer, in a spicy onion-tomato gravy. Winner!
Then we started on veg pulaos with mixed veg raita (haha), getting in bits and pieces of soya nuggets and moong vadi. All good. Local greens were gradually introduced on the side with a buffer of his favourite chole or rajma to tickle his taste buds. Phew! Moving on from here was easy as we experimented with Thai mixed greens (bok choy, zuccini, bell peppers, beans, mushrooms and broccoli) and Italian herbs, liberally sprinkled with fried garlic and chilli flakes.
With the arrival of my little one, all of this went up one notch as I was hell-bent on passing on the vegetable-gene. The real challenge was getting kaddu and lauki into the Pande diet. There was NO way Pande Sr would eat those. No way. Already he was acting the veg-martyr. I had to think hard. And then I saw light!
One of the easiest ways to get such veges into the daily diet is through soups. What I started eventually doing was serve the clear soup with a dollop of butter and croutons once in a while, then whizz the solid base and use it in atta for paushtic rotis or parathas! I realised soon that if you put your mind to it, the options are aplenty – pasta sauce with kaddu and gajar incorporated (yes it is a tried and tested recipe, works every time!); rajma base with lauki and red bell pepper; sweet potato chaat; kathi rolls with egg chicken and a host of veges; mixed veg cutlets that get in the dreaded patta gobi; sambhar with ALL the veges – it’s brilliant; mixed veg stuffed parathas; beetroots & amla mixed with anar in juice and pav bhaji!
Our score today has gone up from 3 to 25 plus (including a host of greens – chaulai, palak, methi, sua, batua, sarson, morning glory, chard, kale, rocket leaves). Quite an achievement I have to say. That still leave out a whole lot – arvi, tinda, parval, baigan, kamal kakdi to name a few, but that’s all right I tell myself, because I am happy savouring the little battles that I have won over time. The greatest joy is when people look at my son and say “arre wah, yeh saab sabjiyan khata hai.” It’s a different story that he goes for his favourite curries (anything that starts with butter something) first and then just eats up the veges that I serve on his plate. But I am happy. And he is NOT complaining. Just like his dad. That’s one little food revolution right there.
(Written in mycity4kids)