Festivals in India are closely linked with food especially in UP households where there is different menu for each festival. Even though Punjabis, since we lived in Banaras our food habits have been influenced by UP-Bihar traditions and some from the home rituals followed by my maternal Grandmother. In almost all the households of our locality, this was the staple Holi lunch of Banaras.
Holi as a festival transcends between summer and winter seasons – therefore, the food also is an amalgamation of the same. On my last Holi visit to childhood home few years back, the old menu of my Nani’s time had to be had – urad dal ki kachori with aloo sabzi, baingan sabzi (alternative to kaddu sabzi), and my mother’s special dahi-vadas. Kaanji (made with carrots) – another Holi staple to bid goodbye to winters and my father’s favourite was sent by a loving neighbour. Accompanying this was the Banarasi speciality – lal mirch ka achaar procured from the old city market. UP kachori is very different from the Delhi style – it is softer and more puri like, with lesser masalas but more filling and having been brought up with that taste, other versions do not taste as good. Barring the pakoras which were an aberration from usual, the Holi lunch of Banaras is generally cooked without onion and garlic. These are the tastes of my childhood that I look forward to every Holi, and even though we try to make some of these dishes they don’t taste the same in this big metropolis – the ingredients and the environment makes all the difference.
After the morning play of colours, the family sits down for this lavish meal followed by gujiyas and then the siesta time. And this Holi weekend, the memory of last Holi in Banaras surfaces with the wish that may be one day I will have this taste of my hometown – Holi lunch of Banaras again.