Posted: Nov 17, 2020
Figuratively and literally the most lit festival that exists, the word derives from the Sanskrit word "deepavali," translating to "a row of lamps." Mythology explains that it was first celebrated when after 14 years in exile, Lord Rama came home to Ayodhya in northern India and the entire village was lit up in his honor. Even today, Indians all over the world celebrate the five days that fall in the Kartik month of the Hindu calendar.
In a year different than any other Diwali before it, I checked in with chefs and food professionals—both in India and part of the diaspora—about what Diwali means to them, both generally and in 2020. One thing shone brighter than the warq on my kaju katli: While we may all have our cultural take and sui generis rituals, what accompanies the covey of sweets is a nostalgia-filled culinary narrative that is common to every Indian no matter where they are.
“It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve been at my parents’ house for Diwali. This year won’t be very different since most of my family lives on the East Coast. But my mom unfailingly sends all of her adult children a care package brimming with typical festive snacks like farsi puri: a crispy flour biscuit generously kneaded with clarified butter; chakri, which is a rice flour snack and peda made of milk solids.
"This year, if I can carve out the time, I’ll make Gujrati-style samosa at home. Unlike its North Indian counterpart, these are filled with diced potatoes, peas and minced carrots. Another favorite is methi na gota, a spicy snack made of fenugreek and chickpea flour. It’s going to be special because I’ve been growing my own fenugreek at home. However, Diwali isn’t official until we bring out the Mistry chevdo—a kind of trail mix filled with various kinds of lentils, flattened rice, peanuts, raisins, spices, and a little sugar.” —Preeti Mistry, chef & author of The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook
“I've celebrated every single Diwali outside of India, since I grew up in Houston, Texas, and feel lucky to have had an incredible group of Indian family friends who come together every year. Back home, my mom would make a feast featuring our traditional eats like masala dosa, idli podi, and also paneer ki sabji and naan, and we would eat jalebi and almond burfi until our stomachs hurt.
"Since my family is in Texas and I am in Los Angeles, I won’t be with them this year, but my husband and I are planning to make channa bhature, and get some Indian sweets and snacks from Surati Farsan Mart here in Southern California. The meal will end with chum-chum and an almond mithai. The holidays should find me some time to try my hand at making gulab jamuns, which are deep fried sweets made of milk solids. We are going to dress up, light up the whole house with candles, lights and oil lamps, and listen to some Carnatic music.” —Aishwarya Iyer, founder, Brightland
By: Sonal Ved
November 14, 2020
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