This I Believe
When I was younger, I would spend every summer with my grandparents. I remember laying on the floor of their living room, playing a game of chess with my older sister. As I lay with my stomach on the ground, and my feet lifted in the air, deep in concentration over my next move, my nose suddenly picks up, and my mind is drawn away from the board. A mixture of cardamom, turmeric, and ginger drafted from the kitchen, calling to me. Intoxicated by the warmth the scents brought to my entire body, I lifted myself from the ground, and abandoned my sister mid game. I wondered into the kitchen, to see my grandmother, my Nani. She wore a floral apron to protect her vermillion top, holding a large wood spoon, and stirring a deep pot; the source of the magnificent scent. She noticed me staring at her in curiosity, and smiled slightly, as she added cauliflower and potatoes, the basis of my favorite dish, aloo gobi. The simmering mixture was almost complete, as my Nani called me to the table. She poured a generous helping over rice on a plate in front of me. I quickly scooped a heaping spoonful into my mouth, burning my tongue out of impatience. Nothing had ever tasted so good in my life.
The recipe was one my grandmother learned before she got married, a recipe she carried with her from her village in India, to Indiana Pennsylvania. My grandmother left her family, her friends, her life in India behind, so that my grandfather could finish his medical school education. In countries foreign to her, she would make that dish, and remember the life she grew up with. The recipe did not simply call for spices, and vegetables, but rather the traditions of her father, the love of her mother, the laughter of her sisters, and the pure essence of the country she called home. My grandmother passed the recipe to my mom when she got married, passing with it everything she had ever known, the things she loved most. Through a simple dish, my grandmother insured that generations after her would remember where they came from, along with the culture and traditions she preserved. I believe in the resilience of identity. I believe that we preserve the parts of us that make up our cultural identify in the traditions, or dishes, we share with those after us. Anytime I take a spoonful of aloo gobi, I remember my grandmother, and all the women in my family who preserved a piece of their identity to share with me; a piece I hope I can pass along as well.