IS UPMA THE LAST WORLD INDIAN CONFORT FOOD?


During the Lockdown period with my family, a few of rituals have marked out my weekdays from weekends. Visiting the mailbox to pick up a shrink-wrapped copy of the newspaper. Stocking au courant provisions during one mandatory trip to the grocery . And dry-roasting semolina to make upma.

It’s been years since I’ve craved this centuries-old savoury porridge, a daily fixture at breakfast and teatime across households in the southern states of India. Then, my grand mother made it on behalf of me the last time I saw her in my beautiful Village in Andhra Pradesh . Then, Andhra Pradesh closed its borders. So, on Saturday mornings, I fry mustard seeds until they sputter, fry cashews until they turn golden, add peas and onions. I top up the pan with boiling-hot water.

When the semolina absorbs the spices, expands enough to fill us, I take heart within the way that combining disparate ingredients during a particular order can sometimes end in comforting things.

My relations has always relished upma. once I was in Maharastra state, upma – which loosely takes its name from the words for ‘flour’ and ‘salt’ in many South Indian languages – wasn’t as common across the western parts of the subcontinent 20 years ago. But an aunt would regularly gift her a parcel of the dish.

“My aunt used to live across the road from us and she or he or he loved making it,” she says, and laughs. “No one else within the house was too keen thereon , because they have very North Indian palates – whereas i wont to be adventurous, I wanted to eat curry leaves, all types of exotic flavours. i’d love getting those little parcels from her. It’s one of my fondest food memories.”

Often, we expect of porridge as one-note. But upma is as versatile and adaptable because the person who’s making it. prefer to swap semolina for poha, a beaten rice beloved across Western India? Sure. Want to feature tomatoes and carrots or crown with grated coconut? No problem. (A squeeze of lime is non-negotiable.)

Grand Ma , who regularly makes upma for her elder son, says that the dish allows you to be resourceful with ingredients, an asset once you can’t regularly swing by the market or the grocery .

“You can use whatever is in your kitchen, even vegetables like celery or kale,” she says. “I can always get the same results with rock bottom thanks to the semolina, the spice, the ghee, curry leaves and dahl. i like better to eat it like polenta – roast the vegetables quickly and pile them on top, so you get multiple layers of texture.”

It’s easy to perceive SouthIndian food as a monolith. apart from my cousin, the owner of small restaurent in Mumbai, upma is proof of the country’s culinary diversity.

“I’m South Indian but grew up during a small city in Maharastra state, our neighbours were muslims and hindus, some were from Tamilnadu – and once we came home from school, we’d have upma,” he says. “From our point of view, it had been simple, but from a other state point of view, it feels exotic. we’d have it with achar [Andhra pickles] or mint chutney. once I make it myself, i like better to feature peanuts. And if you add a sunny-side prod top, it tastes amazing.”

Upma has always been the province of home cooks, mostly women, who often make food for his or her loved ones without credit.

“Upma is traditionally made by a mother – you learn to make it as she did,” says my friend Shinde.

“To me, it’s an example of South Indian home cooking that never makes its way onto a restaurant menu thanks to what proportion love goes into making it,” she says. “It’s not about skill, it’s about patience. It’s about someone who is willing to face before the burner for somebody else.”

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