Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Diminishing Tradition of Pickle Making

Each family has some special things that are passed on from one generation to the other. Be it heirlooms, grandma's stories, family secrets or delectable recipes. Talking about food, when discussing with friends yesterday, we all realized how there are some recipes that might not be a part of our generation.
For instance, pickle and condiments. Our mothers laboriously toiled literally for days on end to make the most delicious pickles. They would make several different types of pickles - from shredded mango to pieces of mango, making and sweet, sour and spicy pickle. To add to that, the enthusiastic mothers also made different types of lemon pickles and many more. Anyone who has grown up in India will know that it used to be a project for the women of the family to sit and peel all mangoes, then cut them of almost the same size, leave them in the sun to dry for some time. Some other steps included mixing these pieces or shredded mango in the syrup, tying with a cloth and putting them in the sunlight for the sugar to melt.
The pickle was ready to eat two to three days after it was prepared and transferred in large jars. And this pickle would last the family for an entire year. To come to the point, some mothers still go through this laborious task of making pickle or achaar as it is called in Hindi. Some mothers don't if they have an empty nest at home and they have no one who would relish the pickle anymore. Some mothers make it despite having an empty nest. They would send it to their sons and daughters in other countries and give it to their relatives or friends. While talking yesterday, it made me curious as to how many children of my generation actually know how to make pickles. I am quite sure that if we were given just raw mangoes and some spices, we would not know how to proceed with it. It is a tradition that will not be carried forward for a very long time. There are several reasons for that. One is that the weather required to make these pickles is not there in other countries where the children may have settled.
The second reason is that time is a very important criteria in today's world. Gone are the days when mothers spent hours doing kitchen chores. Today, men and women do not make that a priority. Which brings me to the point that priorities have changed. And a very big factor is the ease with which ready-made food is available.
While speaking with friends yesterday, we were discussing that Swad, Deep and Sanjeev Kapoor's pickles are really delicious. It has become very convenient to just purchase a bottle from the shelf of an Indian store and you have pickle ready to be eaten. About 10-15 years back, this was not even thought of. It was only mom's pickle that went with the school tiffin box and for meals at home.
Our mothers learnt the art of making pickles, papads, and other annually made recipes from their mothers and their grandmothers and it was on passed on to them also from the generation before them. Some mothers still ask their children what they want to eat and in spring would make that pickle. That's where the pickle making translated from just a task to more than that. It's the sentiment of making so that everyone would enjoy it. Sadly, it won't be very long till the wonderful way of making pickles will be known only by reading in books and the Internet and not be seen as we did.

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