Wednesday, September 5, 2007

we came together

Mehndi on the bride's hands

What does it mean to open ourselves up to someone else, someone who is different from us? Perhaps it's understanding and accepting a new culture, a new lifestyle, a different set of habits. Perhaps it's seeing every which way we're the same, and yet appreciating all the ways in which we are different. A culture clash can be a wonderful thing.

Eating the food from a different culture is to begin to truly understand the heart and soul of that people, their history and lives. If you think about it, cooking is one of the purest and most genuine ways in which someone can express themselves and to translate the intimacies of their culture and traditions. When we pick up a pair of chopsticks, reach across the table for a piece of sushi, we're breaking a culture barrier. For me, this isn't enough. I enjoy recreating these dishes in my own kitchen, and really going through the same processes and techniques that a Japanese granny or an Indian auntie would in theirs. It shows that we're capable of crossing boundaries, be it racial, ethnic, or even social and economic. Food transcends borders and class; it brings people together- to the table, to the middle, to the other side.

This past weekend, my best friends and I reunited for our friends' engagement party- a three day long celebration with family, friends and out of this world Indian food! Up until this weekend, I didn't realize just how little I knew about Indian food culture, the regions and the ingredients. Beyond curries, cumin, turmeric powder, garam masala, biryanis....there is a whole world of fresh and intense flavors that tease the palate. Much of the food was prepared by the family. They urged us to try everything and explained what each dish was, all the while with pride and love in their eyes as they introduced a piece of their world to us. Food was the medium by which they welcomed us into their homes. It also gave us a glimpse of the intensely warm energy of this family, their relationships with each other, and the unspeakable pride and joy that brought us all together to honor the young couple.

These are just a few of the dishes we gorged on...

Fritters stuffed with potato, chickpeas, green chutney, raita, and sev (a fried snack that looks like vermicelli)

oh hell yea! Samosas!

Tandoori chicken with coriander chutney

I think this is called bhel puri- a snack of fried pastry, boiled potato, chickpeas, chutneys, raw diced onion, and sev

Idli- a steamed rice cake made of rice and lentil flours