Rajasthan like its huge ghagras, forts, people with gigantic moustaches and of course their huge welcoming hearts, also has huge kitchens.
How do I know? Well, we had an opportunity to cook in Rajasthan.
We Indians might not try local food but we will definitely try home-state food in other states or Indian food in other countries. Being a Punekar, the urge for Poha is never ending but the only breakfast item we found readily available on Dhaba was Paratha.
Shersingh one fine day rapidly changed lanes and took our Indica down the highway. The obvious thought was, we are going to lose at least an hour as he will remove the puncture.
But his next words despite his smoky smelling mouth and hoarse voice sounded like morning Raga Jaunpuri by Kaushiki, aaahh…! Bliss to ears “Sahab apko poha khana thana? Idar maine khaya tha ek baar.” (Trans: You wanted to eat poha right? I had once tried that dish here)
My father to impress the Dhaba owner who was nowhere to be seen “Khamma Ghani” (Trans: Greetings in Rajashtan)
“Ghani Khamma” a person of about 6ft 2inches appeared from behind the curtain with absolutely no expression on his scarred face adjusting his moustache (a regular scene with men in Rajasthan) asked us for our order.
Shersingh adjusting his own mustache “4 poha do sahab ko aur muze 1 paratha”. (Trans: 4 Poha to sir and one Paratha to me)
The owner immediately said, “poha ko time lagega” (Trans: It will take some time for Poha)
We were ready to wait for infinite time but my father’s haste when it came to food responded “Bhai thoda jaldi krdo age bhi jana hai.” (Trans: Try doing it fast we have to go on our next destination)
After 10mins my father’s restlessness came to peak as Shersingh received his Paratha but we had nothing on our table so he decided to peak into the kitchen. He reached the curtain, opened it, and out came the owner, receiving a king’s welcome. My father’s expedition ended up with laughter on our face.
This laughter immediately faded with mustard yellow poha on our table ironically without a sign of mustard seeds, onion, coriander on top and lemon in the side. Instead it had huge quantities of fenugreek seeds and turmeric that’s it. The poha in Rajasthan tasted flat just like the fort of Bikaner.
Unable to eat it my father directly entered the kitchen this time and after 3-4 minutes called us in to help him. HELP? For what?
Inside was our father in farthest corner of that lemon green coloured room telling the cook to cut onion. The kitchen would be at least 22 yards with two players on that pitch; cook and the owner and three lizards at silly point. The Kitchen was stumped with rich and delicately carved timber cupboards half empty half filled with heavy pure copper utensils. The platform was huge for about 12-15 cooks to work at a time. But most of it was empty with only one gas.
Till we were just gazing at the kitchen there was an audience of three around my father, trying to learn Poha the Maharashtrian way. Now the Poha tasted homely the only change being 3 Rajasthani’s with us having Poha and discussing.
Another was chance of entering a kitchen in Rajasthan was in Jaisalmer where the hotel management was kind enough to allow my father to learn how to make ‘gatte ki sabji’. Unlike colourful and distinct Ghagra’s, kitchens in Rajasthan are same with old cupboards and copper utensils with no sign of modernity. Probably trying to keep the flavours intact by using stone grinders instead of mixers and a place for wood fire. Despite being invaded many times by foreign kings and now the tourists, Rajasthan has been surely able to preserve its culture and of course its true flavour in these huge Kitchens.
“Food is culture and we need to listen to it.”Robert Ervin.
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