One country, many ‘wadis’
aarosh
India > Entertainment and Food in India > Community Forums > Indian Cooking and Cuisine
#1
| Omnipresent

One country, many ‘wadis’


Sun-dried ‘urad dal wadis’. Photo: iStock


After my paternal grandfather’s death, my grandmother, an unyielding conformist, insisted on a strictly vegetarian diet, “as befits the widow of a Brahmin”. Her meals were to be cooked separately too. Besides, she had a special pantry—a small, wooden cupboard with mesh doors, where she stocked her staples like muri (puffed rice), khoi (popped rice) and an assortment of sun-dried pellets of ground pulses, collectively known as bori. These boris were added to the range of ghontos, chorchori, jhaal and jhol that comprised my grandmother’s vegetarian meals.

Traditionally, in a Bengali widow’s strictly vegetarian kitchen circumscribed by oppressive strictures, the humble bori took on a more important role. It not only brought some variety and texture to her frugal meals, but also added a “meaty” bite to mushy vegetable dishes.

In times gone by, the widows of the house, often entrusted with the household’s “vegetarian” kitchen, would also be in charge of making huge batches of bori. In Ashapurna Debi’s fêted novel Pratham Pratisruti, the orthodox widow Mokshada is found mulling over her autumnal ritual of making bori, a task she trusts no one else with. “The household required about fourteen maunds of bori—both the kitchens used them but the responsibility rested with the vegetarian kitchen.” And it’s not just one kind. Debi writes, “They were made from white pumpkin, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cumin seeds; some were crispy, some spicy. Then there were lentil boris for sour and bitter curries—they had so many uses!”

But the art of making bori was not limited to widows—it was a skill most Bengali women would learn. In the Tagore household, for instance, new brides would receive scrupulous training in culinary crafts like rolling a paan, making pickles and preserves and finally, preparing bori. “Such training was considered mandatory though the family was wealthy,” writes Chitra Deb, in her book Women Of The Tagore Household. Rabindranath Tagore’s niece Pragyasundari Devi writes about more than 15 kinds of sun-dried bori made of radish and sweet potatoes to raw mangoes and wood apple in her cookbook Amish O Niramish Ahaar.

It is incredible how the humble bori or wadi, as it is called in most other states, is everything from a delicate culinary craft to a pantry essential, from a cultural expression to an icon of domesticity in Bengal and beyond.

Food writer Saee Koranne-Khandekar describes a similar scene in Maharashtra where the bori or wadi is called saandge. “Women would sit on the terrace in the scorching summer heat, painstakingly pinching off tiny mounds from ground pulses on to a clean cloth, typically a dhoti. In fact there is an interesting saying, dhotrala chikatlela saandga—which refers to a son-in-law who sticks around, just like a saandga sticks to a dhoti.”

As for the spice-specked Punjabi wadiyan, few can resist these. A favourite in Punjabi homes is the wadi waale chawal, a pulao of sorts cooked with crumbled wadiyan. A popular Punjabi folk song eulogizes the same. The lines, “Ambarsare diyan wadiyan ve main khandi na, tu karenda ariyaan ve main sehendi na,” describe a wife making it quite clear to her husband that she would neither eat the delicious treats of Amritsar like papad, chhole and wadiyan, nor endure his temper, foul words or beatings. In Rajasthan, especially in regions where vegetables are scarce, most households stock up on mangodi or spiced wadis made with moong dal.

Rakesh Raghunathan, food blogger and travel show host, points out that fermenting and sun-drying ground-up pulses, often mixed with seasonal vegetables, is at its simplest, a means to preserve surplus produce for lean months—a method that has been around for ages. In his book Food And Drinks In Ancient India, Om Prakash writes about vatika, a predecessor of the wadi, mentioned in various ancient texts—“(urad pulse) was soaked in water, the outer covering removed and the pulse ground on a slab of stone. Some spices were mixed in it and the mixture, after churning well with hands, was allowed to ferment for a few days. Then it were formed into small balls and dried.”

Livemint

2 Replies

#2
| Clueless
I love all vadis - Specially punju vadis in Kaddi :D
#3
| Maha Guru Member
"
But the art of making bori was not limited to widows—it was a skill most Bengali women would learn. In the Tagore household, for instance, new brides would receive scrupulous training in culinary crafts like rolling a paan, making pickles and preserves and finally, preparing bori. “Such training was considered mandatory though the family was wealthy,” writes Chitra Deb, in her book Women Of The Tagore Household. Rabindranath Tagore’s niece Pragyasundari Devi writes about more than 15 kinds of sun-dried bori made of radish and sweet potatoes to raw mangoes and wood apple in her cookbook Amish O Niramish Ahaar."

Certainly new brides would not be sent to university, but would learn how to roll a paan or make pickles.

Gotta love them traditions!

Sheesh,

Ed.

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