Today marks a momentous event, the first time that I curried something, ever!
Growing up, curry was always an event. For me, it was the mark of a special occasion when my mom was making our “home” food. The ceremony; closing up all the doors, tying up our hair, that loud kitchen fan would go on. And then you’d hear the sizzle of the oil in the pan, and that beautiful curry smell would fill the place.
Being West Indian, curry is a part of our culture, a regular everyday part of life. But growing up in Canada, my family struggled to hang onto our culture in day to day life. Cooking and music became the way through which we harnessed the spirit of where we come from. Watching my mom and my sister in the kitchen, dancing and currying, smiling and laughing, and sharing stories of home, that’s where I truly gained a connection to Trinidad, and a way of identifying with my heritage.
Naturally, the pressure to carry on this tradition, essentially our entire culture, became overwhelming. I was terrified to attempt a curry. My mom’s is the best (sure, that’s what everyone says about their mom’s cooking, but I’ve tasted other curries, my mom’s is the best). I spent a lot of time watching. Being present in the kitchen, observing, asking questions, but in 33 years, I had still not curried anything in my life!
When I was little, my favorite part of the meal was the roti. As a toddler I’d sit on the kitchen floor and play with scraps of dough. I remember my moms hands covered in a sticky flour and water paste as she kneaded the dough. The best part though, was when I’d get the first piece, still warm from the pan, and my mom would cut it open like a pizza pop, the butter would melt instantly. Never mind the curry, sometimes I would just sit there with my roti, drenching it in more and more butter.
As I got older, every homecoming and holiday was an opportunity for us to get back to our roots, and make a good curry. With so much distance between us, curry has become what binds us. You know you’re home when…
I’ve been using this (quarantine) time to do the things that I love, but never have enough time to do; reading, writing, blogging, and cooking. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to make my first curry. I called my mom to get the directions. Coming from her, it’s really not a recipe. As I was was writing it down, I could tell how natural of a process making a curry was to her. No measurements, no timers. As I discovered, you sort of just feel it out.
The whole process was familiar. When I wasn’t sure what to do, I’d recall memories from my childhood, all that time spent watching her in the kitchen. I followed the smell of the curry, the colour of the chicken in the pot, the texture of the dough as I made my first roti. I felt closer to my family as I made this meal, I felt a connection to my culture, and it brought me joy. Joy in connection, and joy in the knowledge that it’s in the genes, and I will be able to pass this tradition on one day as well.