A Legacy of Flavour ~ Rajasthani Granny Susheela Samdaria

by on November 5, 2017

Living in a full house with family members spanning four generations is a woman completely immersed in her roles as daughter-in-law, wife, mother and grandmother. The youngest member of the family is her two month-old grandson Samyak, and the oldest her 89 year-old mother-in-law. Meet Susheela Samdaria, 55, a Rajasthani residing for many years in Chennai, and an embodiment of serenity and contentment. Beautifully composed in her starched yellow cotton sari, Susheelaji first attended to her family’s needs and constant demands before she turned to give me her undivided attention and answer all the questions I had prepared with utter simplicity and cheer.
Susheela Samdaria
My childhood was spent in Jodhpur and soon after, I moved to Chennai. I was married to Shri Vijaychand Samdaria while still young. We have two sons and a daughter, and three grandchildren. Hospitality has always been an integral part of our lives. It is ingrained in Rajasthani culture. We grow up learning to share whatever we have, because taking care of one’s family and loved ones is a reward in itself. My husband worked hard to provide us with every possible comfort. Alongside his business, he also nurtures his passion for music. I admire his dedication, sincerity and generosity; he joyously offers music lessons to students during the evenings, highlighting the intricacies of old Bollywood melodies, without expecting anything in return. Even though I do not sing myself, I feel blessed to live in a house where music is truly loved and respected.
Our inspiration comes from experiencing life itself. We grow up watching our mothers and grandmothers cook in the kitchen. We try to emulate them and pass on the same values and skills to our children. My daughter Nisha is a wonderful cook, as is her daughter Labdhi. She may only be 11 years old, but Labdhi already bakes cakes and cooks independently.
As practising Jains, we avoid eating leftovers as much as possible. Usually, surplus food is distributed to household and building staff. However, if there is one dish we like to make with leftovers, it is chawal ka gatta. We add grated bottle gourd to leftover steamed rice. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water from the bottle gourd before use. Now, add wheat flour, a little oil, and any spices of your choice. Knead well and roll into thin, long pieces. Steam the rolls. Once done, carefully remove from steamer and chop into small rounds. Sauté in oil and baghaar and your delicious chawal ka gatta is ready!
Nisha (daughter): Everyone loves mummy’s cooking. Even though I learnt how to make her recipes years ago, I cannot replicate her flavours. I remember once, when my father-in-law came here, mummy had made her special aloo parathas. But as my father-in-law does not usually eat spicy food, and avoids chillies altogether, I was sure he would not eat the parathas. To my utter surprise, when mummy served him a paratha, he ate it without complaint, and even asked for more! It was the first time I realised the true power of balanced cooking. Her flavours blend together so well that the food becomes nurturing.
There is no hidden secret to the taste of food. When you love the people around you with a pure heart, you will cook with your heart and soul. I, for one, really enjoy seeing people relish my food. That is my inspiration.
One recipe that can be made in no time is corn bhel. This is quite a favourite snack at home and has always received much praise from our guests. It’s made with fresh corn that is easily available in the market. Remove the kernels from the cob. Steam and allow to cool. Add chopped onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves and spike with salt, chilli powder and chat masala. The bhel is ready!
Labdhi and I form a real team. She is young, enthusiastic, bright and always ready to learn. She observes everything I do with keen interest, and is eager to gain more knowledge. We all wonder how she remembers the recipes of so many dishes.
Labdhi (granddaughter): If you ask me, Naani is the best cook in the whole world. I love so many of her dishes—her aloo paratha, paneer tikka and milagai podi are my absolute favourites. Whenever I see her cooking, I like to stand in the kitchen and watch her. Today, I baked a vanilla cake, a red velvet cake, and made turai ki sabzi for lunch. I want to be a good cook like Naani when I grow up.
Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine

Part-2 of this post is the recipe of Kele ki Sabzi, a spicy curry made with green plantains from Susheelaji’s kitchen.
First published in ‘Heart to Hearth’ – a column in Harmony Celebrate Age magazine. A series about elders who believe in nurturing the body and mind as the key to joy.


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