Not Just Spices, Misal And Vada Pao: Busting Myths About Marathi Food

Saee Koranne-Khandekar

The Navi Mumbai of the 1980s and 1990s, where we lived when my brother and I were children, was a dull place indeed. We lived, at first, in a City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) colony – the neighbours were my father’s colleagues and all conversations between kids and women alike revolved around their office. We had the quiet colony to play in, but that was all. We then moved to another suburb in Navi Mumbai, where the houses were nicer and schools were more accessible. There was one solitary theatre in the area, but nobody had the courage to enter it. There was also no railway station to take us to Greater Bombay as it was known then, and the company my father worked for would ply buses to and from the city a couple of times a day so people would have access to markets. If you missed one of those, you had to rely on the state transport buses reeking of metal, rexine and vomit.

Our parents wanted us to have access to their ‘Bombay’, away from the monotony of colony life, and so we spent almost every weekend at our maternal grandparents’ house in South Bombay. This Bombay was easy to fall in love with. There were many things to look forward to – the occasional children’s play at the NCPA, walking around Kala Ghoda and accompanying our grandfather on his morning walks on the Marine Drive promenade – but I think we looked forward to the food the most. 

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My grandmother, Aai, did not employ a cook because she enjoyed cooking. And it was in her kitchen that I learned to appreciate simple, everyday home food and identify its complexities. She taught us how to open a bhakri, fill it with vegetables and chutneys and ‘eat it like a pita!’ or how to eat a vaangyacha dahyaatla bhareet (roasted brinjal mixed with yogurt) as a dip. When I brought friends home from college, she would cook up a kadhai of pohe instead of sending us out...

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