Heritage in our Homes: Food & Beverage

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In our series Heritage In Our Homes, we have been celebrating the history of everyday objects. These are symbols of our shared heritage and objects that evoke memories wrapped in nostalgia. We bring you this series in collaboration with Jugaadopolis, a people-led cultural platform.

In the second part, we had Food & Beverage as our theme and invited readers to write in with their favourite food memories and personal stories that the theme evoked. Thank you all for writing in! Here are the winning entries:

1. Subhra Mazumdar

In the’50s, we would portion out the day’s ‘rations’ for the cook to prepare our meals for the day. As there were visitors to be catered to, relatives staying on, and even a festival in the offing, the ration ritual would change every day, depending on the number of diners on that day. A decision on what was to be prepared was also dictated by the host of vendors who arrived with their produce on our doorstep. These included the fish-monger, poultry and egg seller, and the vegetable vendor.

Following these purchases, my mother would decide on the menu and we girls had to measure out the dry rations for the meals – the rice to be cooked, the flour for the chappatis and parathas, spices for grinding, as also the daal variety of the day.

A tin of Dalda ghee | Wikimedia Commons
A tin of Dalda ghee | Wikimedia Commons

Last, we had to fill up an aluminum bowl with dollops of Dalda, the brand name for hydrogenated oil, which at the time was a kind of household saviour. This non-smelling oil with the consistency of ghee was a substitute for the more expensive ghee. It could be used to fry puris, make curries and even for confectionery such as doughnuts. And, guess what, every purchase came with a free ‘cookbook’!

Dalda became a culinary revolution and was hailed as an unbeatable economic measure that served the purpose of ghee at a fraction of the latter’s astronomical price. It also deterred the domestic help from pilfering rations as Dalda could not be sold in lieu of ghee, thereby keeping household accounts in check – and keeping thieving cooks from making off with ghee!

It was only when heart-related problems began to rise in the population that popularity of Dalda began to wane and refined oils became a viable alternative.

But Dalda still had some uses. Its yellow tin container served as an ideal flower pot for growing money plants. It grew out of the Dalda tin, in all directions, making everyone in the locality grow green fingers!

Subhra Mazumdar is a retired teacher. She also writes on art and Hindustani classical music, and is an educational content writer.

2. Jyotsna Lall

Your #HeritageInOurHomes series has brought back the memory of listening to the Bournvita Quiz Contest hosted by Amin Sayani. It was something that my brother and I would wait for, dreading that call for lunch while we were listening to the radio programme. Both of us vied for that coveted spot next to the Philips radio set. We had to wait for it to heat up, wait for the lights to come on, and the glow to spread. Listening to the radio didn’t come easy!

Although I wished that my not-so-famous school would select me to take part in the quiz, I never did take part in the Bournvita Quiz Contest but I managed to convince my mum and neighbouring aunties to give me those Bournvita packet flaps so that I could get the Bournvita Book of Knowledge.

I wish I had a picture of our radio to share - it was discarded with the advent of TV. It had suffered serious damage as a mouse had decided to have babies in it and it had gnawed through the wires when we were out of town!

But I did find a copy of the receipt for the radio when I was clearing out our cupboards after my mother's passing. Here it is.

The receipt from our vintage Philips radio. The price: Rs 352.75!
The receipt from our vintage Philips radio. The price: Rs 352.75! | Jyotsna Lall

Jyotsna Lall, 56, works as Director, Programmes, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, in the Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative, Delhi.

3. Joysree Das

I will never forget the rich flavour of Polson's Butter. It came in a tin container. The smell and taste of it, especially when spread on hot toast with sugar sprinkled on it, was just divine. With that first bite, the butter gradually melted in the mouth, a sensation I treasure to this day.

Polson's Coffee and Butter Advertisement | Wikimedia Commons
Polson's Coffee and Butter Advertisement | Wikimedia Commons

Joysree Das is a teacher. She also enjoys music, poetry and environmental conservation.

4. Rahul Sharma & Shilpa Sachdeva

In a city like Delhi, which has been built, destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, some things remain delightfully constant. One such spot is Special Fruit Ice Cream in Darya Ganj, in the heart of Delhi.

Served with a smile in Darya Ganj, Delhi
Served with a smile in Darya Ganj, Delhi

It was opened in 2003 and was known as Giani Fruit Ice Cream earlier. Unlike ice cream parlours, which serve a variety of flavours, this one offers only one flavour, but one that has an unbeatable taste. Clearly, it has stood the test of time. And there’s one thing this place offers that no other ice cream parlour does – it’s the old uncle’s smile, which comes with every cone! The ice cream here is packed with nuts and tutti-frutti.

Eating out was a rare treat for most of us because most families could not afford it and options too were limited. I still remember coming to this shop every Tuesday, after returning from the Hanuman temple with my father. The temple visit was just an excuse for me and my sister. All we really wanted was a scoop of ice cream!

Rahul Sharma and Shilpa Sachdeva are a photographer-cum-storyteller duo, whose creative pursuits take readers down memory lane.