When I was a child, I did not come across too many stories involving time travel. Since I began to read to my children, it constantly amazes me how many stories there are in this category. I would even say it classifies as an entire genre in its own right. Among other things, it stretches the imagination, makes the impossible possible, takes you to times and places long gone or yet to come.
And what better way to learn History – stories that seamlessly weave fiction with fact are a huge favourite in our home. It makes History come alive with people, their thoughts, emotions and actions as opposed to the dull drab History lessons, crammed with dates and battles, from my school days.
In my mind, time-travel is not only possible but in fact, a reality – especially through the medium of food. We will overlook the highly negligible fact that access is limited to times during my life and which have a special meaning to me.
Whenever I knead dough for chappatis, I am instantly back in the kitchen of my Nani (maternal grandmother). I can hear her instructing me – “when you are done, not a bit should stick to your hand or to the bowl. You should be able to see your reflection in the metal bowl once done.” I mentioned this to her during our phone conversation last week and as we laughed together, I could feel our love, our connection and am comforted, knowing that she is always with me.
Today, I have cooked my favourite Sindhi meal, Sai bhaaji, a pot of delicious and simple flavours, a wholesome mix of lentils, spinach and veggies. And I am in my mother’s kitchen. When I cook a tomato curry and carrot rice, I am sitting under the big trees in my school campus, opening my lunch box to share the contents with my friends.
Pasta sauce has a special meaning in my life. Macaroni in a tomato sauce was the first meal my two dear friends and I tried to cook together. That kitchen, the mess we made, the huge amount of time we took to cook something so simple, the constant giggles and laughter and the kindness of my friend’s family as they ate our concoction…. all unforgettable.
No wonder I enjoy food so much. It is not merely nourishment for my body. Food denotes moments, people and memories filled with love and laughter. I have so many such moments, I could fill a book, fill a lifetime. A simple aroma can take me back and forth in time.
And I am not the only one. One of my favourite bits in a bilingual Spanish and English book (Me llamo Celia Cruz) about Celia Cruz is the bit where she describes how Azucar (sugar) – lots of it in warm milky coffee always takes her back to her mother’s kitchen in Cuba, surrounded by family and friends. “When I walked out on stage, I would simply say “Azucar!” And the audience would know exactly what I meant – home and love and lots of kisses.”
Now it is your turn to tell me about your personal time-travel medium. I would love to hear your story.