Cooking up memories with our nanis and dadis!
By Rubani Sethi
My nanima makes the best chicken curry. Seriously – you haven’t lived if you haven’t tried it (sorry, vegetarians). I remember as kids, my siblings and I would go over to my nani’s house and indulge in her finger-licking-good gai cheow and bai krapao gai, which was paired with endless amounts of roti and rice.
And coming from a house that was pure vegetarian, for us kids, that was heaven (oops). I can’t explain to you the love we felt and still feel from our nani and also her chicken curry; I was so young at the time I couldn’t separate the love I had for both. All I knew was that I loved going over, and I still do. And not to leave out my dadima, who made the best besan barfi. Anyone who knew her probably knew of it. As you can see, we were and still are such foodies, and our love for our grandmothers and our bond for food was and will always remain strong.
It never fails to warm my heart to look back at the memory of sitting with my siblings, mum, masi, nanima, and nanaji at the dining table and waiting for the hot rotis to come to the table as my nanima says “khalo, eat more,” “tangkwa khalo,” and “roti khalo, don’t eat rice.” And I feel so lucky that we still get to do this even today. This is all thanks to my grandmothers, for showing me what love meant through their cooking. I feel blessed to have been around them growing up; the strength I have today comes from them – the life teachings they would teach me and the stories they would tell me. What I took away from my dadima was her strength and resilience; and what I took away from my nanima is her huge heart for giving and how she unconditionally loves others, no matter who they are, where they’re from, and what they have to offer. These characteristics combined make me who I am today, and I’m grateful to have had such a wholesome childhood with them by my side.
P.S. the chicken curry would leave all our ten fingers yellow and we would have to scrub with manao for the smell and colour to get off our fingers; that’s how good it was and still is! But enough about the chicken curry, let’s move on to how other community members feel about their nanis and dadis, and their favourite memory of indulging in their grandmother’s speciality as children.
Growing up, my family had a tradition. I would look forward to Friday because that was “nani’s house day.” The whole family – my masis, massars, and all the grandkids – would go over to her house for dinner, and there would be a huge feast prepared. Nani’s house has this really long table, similar to The Last Supper, where most of our memories are made. We all talk on top of each other, discuss the fun things and the crappy things happening in our lives; we laugh, share, and fight too.
Every Friday is a party! My nani makes sure that everyone’s favourite dish is made. She knows what each grandchild’s favourite food is, and caters to all her grandchildren’s food requests. She always ensures that all the seafood and meat are of the best quality, and are super fresh. Our meals never stopped at dinner, afterwards there’s always fruit, cakes, and chocolates.
My nani is a person that would go above and beyond to make everyone happy, and she does that by ensuring that all of us are well-fed. One of the first things she’d ask me is, “Simmi baby, what do you want to eat? Tell nani, I can prepare anything for you.” The first time I returned from university, I told her I was in the mood for gaeng khiew waan and gaeng gai, but I told her only to make one. When I went to her house, she had prepared both dishes along with fish, bai krapao and khai jiao and she got me my favourite dessert, khao niao ma muang. This moment immediately took me back to my childhood and reminded me of the nurturing relationships in my family. The Friday dinners go beyond the food: it’s when we plan our yearly family trips, it’s about staying connected and making sure we take time for each other and prioritise family.
The tradition of going to nani’s house has been going on for decades, and we still continue it, although not as frequently as I would like to. It’s still a big part of my life, and I cherish it. Aside from our bond over food, when I was young, my nani would give me head massages with oil (taill malish) and I would really love it. It was such a bond we shared. A nani’s or dadi’s love is like no other. It’s unconditional, warm and so pure. My nani is our pillar of strength. She leaves no stone unturned in ensuring that all her children and grandchildren are well cared for. She’s truly legendary, and I hope I can match up to her one day. I would like to deeply honour and thank all the nanis and dadis out there who work silently, tirelessly, diligently, and go out of their way to make sure that their offspring are happy and fed.
Nanima and I live in different cities and each time we visit her, it’s super special and always feels like a mini vacation at her place! She always gets super excited about preparing our favourite food and her home is always stocked up on the best snacks and sweets. As soon as she finds out we’re visiting, the first question is always, “what do you want to eat when you get here?” It’s her love language, and I truly think that’s the sweetest thing ever. My answer to that will forever be aloo bhindi because Nanima’s recipe is just Godsent. Growing up, I hated eating vegetables and Indian sabzis in general, but I fell in love with Nanima’s aloo bhindi, and that easily became my (only) favourite Indian sabzi.
One of my favourite things about visiting Nanima’s place (but also easily my least favourite) is how she will constantly bring out more food and snacks for us even though we’d just had the biggest meal. It’s like there’s an unlimited supply, and it’s like she thinks your tummy also has unlimited space! It’s the best, but also you know that the food coma is on the way (even though it’s always worth it with Nanima’s homemade food, so who’s complaining).
My nanima also loves telling stories and she always shares a lesson or moral through them. I remember as kids, each time my sister and I visited, we’d ask her to tell the same stories over and over again because of how much we loved them. Each time, Nanima would tell it all over again with so much joy in her eyes. It’s the same kind of joy I see when she sees us absolutely in love with her food (and we always are!) My Nanima teaches us so much about life, relationships and being your authentic self.
I hope that one day I can pass on the same to my loved ones, the same way I hope I can make them the best food with Nanima’s recipes (especially her ‘chef’s kiss’ aloo bhindi) and tell them all about Nanima’s legacy.
Grandmothers are so precious and special, and their presence always fills you up with so much warmth and love. Nanima’s place will always feel special, cosy and warm in its own way to me, and I cannot wait to visit her super soon again this year!
As I sit down to reminisce about my favourite memory, my heart fills with joy and gratitude. The memory that stands out above all others is the warm embrace of my grandparents after a long day at school. The feeling of their kisses on my cheek and their unwavering love enveloping me in a cocoon of comfort is indescribable. And the food! Oh, the food they prepared for me was nothing short of a culinary masterpiece. The aroma of Indian spices and flavours wafting through the air was enough to transport me to a world of blissful contentment. These moments spent with my grandparents are nothing short of precious gems that I will forever hold close to my heart.
My grandmother, especially, holds a special place in my heart. Her love and affection are like a healing balm that soothes my soul after a long, challenging day. The food she prepares is more than just a meal – it is a plateful of love that brings comfort and joy. And when she makes my favourite dish, Chicken masala, it’s like a magic wand that can turn any day into a better one.
But it’s not just the taste that makes her food special, it’s the prayers and blessings she imbues into every dish. Her food is not just nourishing for my body, but also for my spirit. Her love and care are truly a gift that I cherish every day.
For years, my grandparents were my home. I was blessed to be surrounded by their love and care every day. Now, I visit them every two weeks, and the welcome I receive when I arrive is like a warm embrace that fills me with joy. It’s as if no time has passed at all – we pick up right where we left off, sharing stories and laughing together.
The time I spend with my grandparents is a precious gift that I treasure deeply. Their love and guidance have shaped who I am today, and every visit reminds me of the blessings that I owe to them. From a very young age, they shaped me into the person I am today, teaching me the values of kindness, humility, and hard work. My grandfather would pick me up from school every day and carry me to sleep; a memory I still cherish today. They helped me learn Punjabi and imbued me with a deep appreciation for our religion through their stories and teachings. And through it all, they have always pushed me to be the best version of myself. They taught me to be a fighter, to never give up on my dreams, and to always strive for excellence. I am so grateful for the love and guidance they have given me, and I know that I would not be where I am today without them. This is my tribute to the amazing grandparents who have shaped me and helped me achieve my dreams.
I have been fortunate enough to have grown up with both my dadi’s and nani’s delicious food. Honestly, anything they cook is always so special, and I’d say that my favourite cuisine would be my grandmothers’ food. My dadima was born and brought up in Singapore and has had a passion for cooking and baking since she was young. My favourite dishes that she makes – and everyone else’s favourites as well – would be her nasi lemak and her style of salapao. Anyone who visits her always asks for these two dishes, including sweets like gulab jamun. But baking cakes is when she truly shines. She bakes one of the softest cakes in the world, one that literally melts in your mouth, and that too without eggs! She also decorates her cakes in various ways, and would come up with something different every time she bakes. Those who’ve asked for her recipes and attempted making those dishes haven’t even come close to how she does, that’s how special they are.
My nanima, on the other hand, is from India and cooks the best Indian food. She started cooking when she studied Home Science in sixth grade back in India, despite not having a passion for it back then. Once she got married, she started cooking on a regular basis and fell in love with it. Every meal she cooks is something all her children and grandchildren always long for. Whenever I go to her house, I have no special requests because I love anything and everything she cooks. But as I said, Indian food is her speciality and hence our love for her Indian food is undying. One of our favourite dishes she cooks is chole bhature (a must-have if you know my nanima) along with other dishes such as daal makhini, kofte, saag paneer, and her prashaad. She cooksthem all with no complaints and is always ready to cook anything at any time of the day.
They have both been cooking for over five decades now to the point where cooking anything is now their baen hath ka khel(child’s play or effortless). They both cook with so much love that anything they make is always special. No matter how tired they may be, hearing that any of their family members is hungry or has just come back home from class or work, puts them in the zone to cook the most delicious food.
Not only does this fill our stomachs, but it also satisfies my grandmothers when they see their family eat with such joy. As we all know, home-cooked meals are always a better and healthier option to takeout or fast food. What’s better than grandma’s home cooked meals? Absolutely nothing.
I would like to thank the universe for making my childhood so special by having my grandmothers around and growing up with their food, which provided me with warmth, love, comfort and a sense of tradition. Not only is it finger-licking delicious, but they also hold stories and history. These are cherished moments that are irreplaceable. Our grandmothers have faced multiple hardships but have done anything and everything for their family, going above and beyond to help others, and they’ve therefore been a true inspiration to us all. They are the pillars of our family, and we would not be where we are now if it wasn’t for them. They both hold a special place in our hearts and our only wish is for their long life and good health.