I firmly believe that my dad is the king of the kitchen. My strong bond with my father came from our shared love for food and his passion for cooking whatever I asked for each and every night. He adored the fact that I had a good appetite, or in our class we would say I had a “buona bocca.” He would always try to cook up something new in order to teach me about not only our own Indian culture, but various cultures across the world. If you ask me what my favorite food is, I’ll probably just say, “Anything my dad cooks.” Anyways, I feel that it is only appropriate to start off my writing journey in this class with his impact on my fascination of diverse foods. Three dishes that have become vital to my growth as an individual and to my family are dosas with unique chutneys, mutton biriyani, and mangai pachadi. Each one of these dishes play a specific role in how my family celebrates and shares our culture with one another.
Dosa and chutney is a staple dish in India. It is a comfort food across the nation and something that can be eaten at any time of the day. Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of this dish, but it plays an extremely important factor in how I display my pride about my country, and I continue to cherish every bite. When I was seven years old, my father decided to singlehandedly run a dosa stand at a street food fair in New York City, NY. I remember standing outside the stand in a white apron, raising my finger up, yelling, “One dollar dosas! Enjoy some one dollar dosas!” It was the first time that I displayed my pride for my culture and heritage. That has been something that I struggled with my whole life, until I came to college and fully embraced my identity as Emory’s Indian Cultural Exchange President.
Mutton biriyani is a dish that combines many different flavors and aromas from various places across India and Pakistan. It is collectively my family’s favorite dish to make and eat. I know that every time I come home from college, I’ll walk into the kitchen filled with the yummy smells of the mustard, saffron, and marinated meat. My love for biriyani also taught me to explore the different ways a dish can be made. Since biriyani has so many influences, different people make it with their own twist. My family loves to explore the unique flavors because it shares each individual’s story. I continue to eat and savor this dish, because I never know exactly what to expect depending who made the dish and that definitely keeps me excited.
Finally, mangai pachadi is a sweet, Tamilian meal that my father is known for being the best at making. All our family friends come to our home just to eat this amazing platter. It is actually quite a rare dish, but that makes it even more special to me. My father always packs me bottles of this mango delicacy every semester for college. I eat so much of it, especially during times when I need to be comforted. This is a true representation of my Tamil background, but more importantly it reminds me of my supportive family back home.
I have not yet had the opportunity to explored the ethnic communities in Atlanta, but I am extremely involved with the Indian students across campus through both ICE and my Bollywood a cappella group, Suri. We all bond together through trips to Patel Plaza in Decatur for chaat or heading over to Zyka for some warm naans and butter chicken. It is our way of staying connected to our culture, but also each other. Food plays the important role of bringing people together and this is only the beginning to my journey. All these family run Indian restaurants and stores deliver a small piece of home and familiarity to students like me. They were like my aunties and uncles, always trying to feed me and it was comforting having food similar to home. I even brought this part of me to campus to cater ICE events and to share a part of my culture and tradition to Emory University. I hope that through this class I will be able to explore more about Chinese and Italian culture, and I am so excited to discover more about myself and others through food.