A reason to love this heat

My great grandmother is one of the strongest women I know. She was a bad-ass home chef!

By 30, she had 7 children and cooked for over 20 people every day. She was very generous with her ingredients- a trait most women in kitchens lack- and a benevolent person who cherished cooking and feeding large crowds.

When she was 85 and not as independent as she was in her good days, she narrated stories to me and my little cousin, while we shared homemade sweets and snacks. We would cuddle with her and she would tell us the same story about a crow and a pigeon going to the city. We demanded a new one but somehow she would excite us with crows and pigeons again.

The moral of the story was to stay humble because that is what good people do. But more than cherishing the pigeon’s victory, I think I enjoyed sharing that warm blanket with my ajji, her pruned-skin fingers brushing my hair, letting me help her drink a glass of water, and letting me feel the wrinkles on her face. Every wrinkle is a story and I treasure each one when a member of my family shares one.

My grandmother inherited one of her most prized assets. Her sandige making skills and recipes. Although my grandmother over seasoned it the past fifteen years she has been making it, I’m glad my mother and I perfected it!

There is joy every time I peel a dried sandige out of an old saree and the warm summer breeze ruffles my hair gently. And I feel fortunate to be making these snacks in 2017!

So, a sandige is a sun-dried crisp that blooms when deep fried in vegetable oil. This was every household’s summer chore in the 80s, where they would take advantage of the sweltering heat and dry hundreds of sandiges on metres of old cotton sarees on their tiled rooftops.

If a drone flew over houses in Mysuru in the 1980s, there would be colourful sarees lined up on roofs, patterned with circles of brown and white sandiges.

It can be made with rice, sago, wheat, ragi and flavored with all kinds of spices and herbs. My great grandmother’s specialty is a cumin and chilli sandige made with rice or sago.

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Specks of cumin, chilli and curry leaf trapped on a translucent sago ball sandige.

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My mum’s experiments with oats and ragi.

It is a pretty complex process and needs a lot of care and attention.

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This has to be one of my favourites! Chillies soaked in curd and salt and sun-dried till they are dehydrated and wrinkled. This takes weeks to dry and are often re-soaked in curd every night and put back on the roof to dry in the afternoons.

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Sandiges make excellent entrees too! Here I have a chickpea salad and a tomato salad, topped with toasted almonds and sesame seeds; coriander and fried curry leaves respectively.

 

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