Food is incomplete without its accompaniments, much like a shirt is without its buttons. The main dish might hog all the attention and get an enviable place in the menu but without the free pickle served alongside our meal is only partially perfect. Wait, did I say pickle? I prefer and am going to call it Achar, for sometimes the name does make all the difference! We Indians are suckers for it. 🙂
There are two things that one will always find on a Marwari family’s spread; papad and achar. I’m not much of a papad fan but achar was like my soulmate. Every year my mother would make some 10-15 different types of them and send it to all and sundry. God knows she had plentiful fans of her cooking! The popular raw mango was just the tip of it, any vegetable could be pickled and its taste simply settled on our tongues.
Achar quintessentially adds zing and gives a tangy kick to any meal. Different types of oils and ingredients are used to make it differently in every part of India. It is high in salt content and other natural preservatives but there are healthy alternatives to it too. It also ranges in taste from spicy, sour, sweet to even bitter.
Housewives and even professional chefs hold their traditional achar recipes dearly close to their heart. The summer sun and heat is best for the preparation of Murabba which has great taste and digestive properties. Nimbu ki mirchi requires no oil at all. Also, you can make achars throughout the year in small quantities using garlic cloves, bitter gourd slices, shredded cabbage or other vegetables.
Come summer and our home would be buzzing with activity. A trip to the local grocery shop for masalas set the tone for the excitement to follow. Mom and other Aunties would head to the vegetable market early morning to get the best raw mango produce. Tired but pleased, they would return home loaded with bags full of pre-cut raw mangoes. Big pickle jars, washed and dried, stood lined up in the kitchen, ready to store the entire year’s achar supply.
My friends raided my lunch-box every time my Mom packed achar for me. We would snigger and tease each other playfully then since our limited knowledge suggested that pregnancy lead to achar cravings. This is the effect of watching too many Hindi movies of the 80s and 90s. Honestly, how silly could we be! 😛
A replacement for some sabzi I didn’t like, my nostalgic companion away from home and my comfort food, achar made life bearable. Am I being melodramatic here? May be, but its true. The aroma of freshly-prepared achar was nothing less than magic for me and beckoned me like a long lost friend. Mom always insisted me to observe her process and sadly, when I did make achar for the first time, she was gone. 🙁
Her memories are with me though and I’m sure to pass them on to Angel. 🙂
This post is written for #BlogchatterA2Z and #AtoZChallenge for April 2019