Farm, Fair and Rustic exuberance
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” - Leonardo da Vinci
This year it had close to 500 stalls, including an open food ‘park’. There were stalls selling everything from woollens to spices to snacks, pickles and an entire aisle selling fresh farm produce. I of course headed first to the food park (so much so that my Dad knew exactly where to find me when he came – my excuse is that I needed good photos in good light) and that’s what I’ll tell you about. A local speciality is ‘Mande’ – which are rotis packed with a sweet lentil filling, and cooked over open, inverted kadhais (or woks). For the Maharashtrians reading this, think of Puran Poli – only 3 times the size. Making them looks easy, but there is so much skill required to roll them out large and thin and not have them tear.
The food park also had a stall dedicated to lassi – something very similar to that of the Rajasthani Makhni lassi, but this was the Maharshtrian version. There were Modak (sweet coconut filling, steamed rice dumplings) in the traditional version, and lovely chocolate and mango flavours. One of the things I had for the first time was the ‘gavha chi kheer’ or wheat kheer. This, for me was a revelation. I was doubtful at first but it was too cold to not try the hot kheer. It was quite sweet and garnished with dry coconut but when it’s so cold out, you don’t care much.
Then there was a trip to Ahmednagar. Ahmednagar, or Nagar, is town about 120 Km away from Pune and famous for an old Maharashtrian tradition of eating Hurda (roasted tender sorghum). In the winter months, it used to be routine to go for a picnic with close friends to the fields or to the river bank, roast the tender cobs from Jwari (Sorghum), sift the green seeds out and eat them with a spicy ‘lasna chi chutney’(or garlic chutney). In our contemporary lives, this tradition has somewhat taken a back seat. People don’t even know about it, let alone consider the possibility of exploring such a place.
As one travels out of Pune, towards Ahmednagar, the rapid change in the countryside is astonishing. One minute you are manoeuvring your way out of mall hopping crowds, the next looking at manufacturing units of large conglomerates and then suddenly, you leave all the urbanity behind, and enter the villages. There are local markets galore, acres and acres of fields on either side of the roads, tiny houses in the middle of the fields, and farmers on their daily rounds inspecting crops.
Alternately, if you have been running around the countryside, and want to hydrate, add the Hurda to a bowlful of fresh yogurt, and eat (And one more thing, don’t drink water immediately after eating Hurda. It’s not recommended).
Happy New Year everyone!
Note - Hurda is in season for a very short period of time. Its available from December till February. So you still have time - if you are in Maharashtra anytime soon.