I love to bake cakes for my children’s birthdays. For me, it is the ultimate display of my affection for them.
This feeling perhaps goes back to my childhood. There were three of us siblings and Mom would bake, saute, fry for hours on end for each of our birthdays. It did not matter what was put on the table when our friends and relatives arrived; we could feel ourselves smothered by all the care and affection because of her painstaking preparations.
I also remember going out with my mother to get pretty frocks stitched for my birthday. The places we went to were bright, airy, elegant houses with pedigreed dogs of whom I was scared. I think those seamstresses were also mothers trying to bring cheer to their children and their friend’s children. We ate cup cakes with tea.
Yet, my favourite childhood food at the special occasions were not the crusty, baked-to-perfection cakes but the mouth watering samosas.
Samosas are deep fried, conical fritters stuffed with potatoes and peas (mostly). They were one dish that graced the table of every house in North India, at least on special occasions. For birthdays, anniversaries, parties, get-togethers, samosas were ordered from halwais -sweetmakers. They were and still are rarely made at home. It is one dish that has always been bought. Everybody ate them with abandon, dipping them in chutneys – sauces red and green.
At our house, whenever guests dropped in unexpectedly, Mom would send us children on an errand to buy samosas. I can still go to the shop in my mind, traverse the same narrow lanes, leading to the wide road bordered by tall walls and rimmed with barbed wire. It looked forbidding, so we quickly made the purchases and returned to our cheerful, familiar lanes.
To me, samosas symbolise happy times, togetherness, love and laughter.
Today, we have a plethora of choices when it comes to snacks. We serve healthier, more elegant and westernised options. But, nothing can beat my beloved samosas.