A grilled chicken requiem for a fractured nation

A grilled chicken requiem for a fractured nation

There were no Christians at our Christmas dinner, only Hindus and Muslims.

With the threat of Covid looming again, most of our Christian friends had opted for quiet family celebrations. But Christmas was such an important part of our lives that we felt like we had to have at least a little gathering, especially to keep alive the idea of ​​an India that we had all grown up with.

As we lamented the dark turn our country had taken, one of our Muslim friends, whose middle name is Kumar, explained how he went to a school where he studied the Bhagavad Gita and knew it better than many Hindus. I remembered how I was never asked to read even a Bible during my school life, which, with the exception of five years, was spent primarily in Christian institutions, where the teachers came from a variety of backgrounds and my classmates came from families of property owners. local supermarkets and auto-rickshaw drivers. .

As I have often written, our son has grown up in a neighborhood that celebrates, both in public and personal space, its diverse religious cultures. We value and treasure the invaluable life lessons she and we received from Richards Town. This does not mean that we are free of fanatics, only that they are well hidden in a landscape adorned with shared values, tolerance and the ties that bind. When they live together, they learn to accept and adapt more easily; sometimes, there is no other option.

I remember how a Muslim friend from Bihar stared at the Christian-run cold room advertising its pork belly and sausages a stone’s throw from the local mosque; how fried meat was advertised freely (still available, but not as widely) in restaurants near a temple and everyone patiently endured the raucous annual Christian procession and Ramzan’s bustling, noisy food street.

In fact, while food is often a point of division in this maddening nation, it is also a place of contact between its various cultures. This is how some of Marwari’s classmates in college sneaked out to eat khuskha or ghee rice and chicken curry for lunch; some Muslims were brave enough to eat pandhi or pork curry; and some Hindus devoured fried meat fried with parotta. The Christians, of course, ate everything.

Food was my entry point into the myriad cultures of the Northeast, each offering a smorgasbord of options and revealing to me how these options defined the people who cooked that food. It was by eating Naga food first that I sought to know more about its diversity and the people who cook it, as happened with Manipuri food, which can be as diverse as the subcontinent itself.

Growing up, our entry into Muslim culture from Hyderabadi, Hindu from Gowda, and Christian from Mangalorea was made possible by close friends. As I am writing this column at Christmas, I can’t help but remember the parents’ friends who always invited us to a Christmas party where the lights were dimmed and a rum-soaked cake was set on fire, their billowing blue flame always burning in me. . memories.

I remember Fifine’s aunt, Josephine Sequeira, because my love for certain—Those fluffy Idli-like rice cakes made with fermented rice dough- it comes from home, as does my penchant for adding generous amounts of rum to my meats. That’s what I did for Christmas dinner this year, generously basting my rotisserie chicken on Old Monk.

Roast chicken, roast turkey, vegetables in coconut milk and my mother’s prawns pulao It made up for the absence of our Christmas tree, which we had to knock down after the cat decided to wage a relentless personal battle against its shiny decorations and plastic branches.

It wasn’t intentional, but I did notice that the dinner menu reflected our syncretic culinary backgrounds. The roast turkey came from outside, a whisper from our colonial past and our ongoing modern global commitment. Vegetables and shrimp pulao It reflected my family’s Konkan traditions, and the roast chicken was just a happy mix of my travels and experiences with cultures as far away as the Maghreb.

On that lovely evening in Bengaluru, our little moment seemed far removed from our bleak national realities and offered hope that what once was, still is and, with the efforts of all of us, could continue to be.

Roast Chicken with Nut Bread Stuffing

1 whole chicken with skin
2 teaspoons of sumac
2 teaspoons of will
(if one or both of the two spices are not available, use a mild chili powder and cumin powder)
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
2 tablespoons rum
Salt to taste
Cut the skin of the chicken and marinate with all the previous ingredients. Let stand for 4-5 hours after wrapping in foil.

For the filling:

2 slices of bread, chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 sprig of rosemary
2 teaspoons soft butter

Mix the filling and wrap it in the chicken. Pull the skin to cover and use two toothpicks to secure.

Preheat the oven to 150 ° C. Place the chicken on a tray and roast in foil for 2 hours. Collect the liquid that flows during this time. Open the foil and increase the heat to 200-220 ° C and broil for 45 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until golden brown, but making sure not to burn. Stick a knife deep; if it comes out clean, your chicken is cooked.

Remove and cut with a knife and fork. The meat should come off the bone cleanly.

For 6

Our daily bread is a column on how to cook in a simple and ingenious way. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Guide to Creative Cooking and Other Dubious Adventures of the Married Man. @ samar11

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