Methi Di Roti

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Old 05-Sep-2007
Methi Di Roti

A really nice article i found, which i thought i shd share!

Sometimes, our kitchen spills over with the comforting aroma of traditional Punjabi masala - fried onions, ginger, and garlic - that we use for an occasional daal or a sabzi and for which we prepare the traditional accompaniments of yogurt and a plate of fresh vegetables, soaked in lemon juice.

Growing up in a Punjabi household, I'm keenly aware of which main dishes go with either a roti or rice, so I often wonder why the roti has become an endangered edible in our home. Somehow, we have settled for pairing saag, baingan, and gobi with a bowl of basmati rice. Most of the cooks in my family would consider this a form of suffering, so the silent resistance to making our rotis, while secretly being committed to obtaining them in any way possible, is worth some attention.

On weekends, we find it perfectly reasonable to schedule our Sunday morning for drives to Vik's Chaat House in Berkeley, to pick up a half-dozen packages of rotis, before they all disappear with the early lunch rush. Or, we will drive to my mom's house, so we can stock up on a month's supply, to haul them back to our home and store in our freezer.

To be fair to my brother, my mother will prepare 50-60 rotis and pack them in his suitcase when he comes to visit, so he can fly back with them to his home in Illinois and secure them in his freezer. Or, she will Fed-Ex him stacks of tightly foil-wrapped frozen rotis, so that they survive the trip, only to be re-frozen.

All of this wrapping, packing, shipping, and freezing have become normal routines for us as a family. It's almost too normal. All of this effort, just to have rotis sitting side-by-side with meat and vegetables on our dinner plates, is an indication of something going awry.

I have been ruminating over why I resist making my own rotis. I'll make batter and dough for pancakes, brownies, cookies, cakes and banana bread. So, why not aata?

I wonder if I have subconsciously relegated roti-making to an antiquated practice in an otherwise modern world. I remember watching one of my cousins in Punjab squatting next to a tavaa (hot-plate), slapping together two dozen rotis for a dinner, and thinking I'd only be able to squat long enough to place the first one on the hot-plate.

So, I simply eliminated roti from my list of must-learn items.

I do question my ability to gun aata, to knead the wheat flour with water, but without a recipe! And to shape perfectly round peras and roll out rotis that are appetizing, appears to be a daunting task.

Past attempts have produced geographical representations of Florida and Texas, but is that really an excuse to not try again?

I've landed on childhood memories as an obstacle to our own roti-making efforts. The nostalgia of receiving a tavaa-made roti, dripping with butter, from my mother's hands, has enough sentimental value to override any current practicality of making my own. And like many immigrant mothers, mine has earned her position as a proud Punjabi woman in America by mastering everything roti, so that there's a lot to live up to.

Over the years, she has made countless versions of the roti - chappati, tandoori, makki, naan, kulcha, poori, and every variation of the parantha - aaloo, daal, gobi, paneer, methi - countless times.

She has experimented with methi paranthas enough to create a 21st century super-food by adding baysen, daal, low fat ricotta cheese and methi, packing every daily nutrient needed into every single bite.

The feeling of fullness, satisfaction and contentment that comes from rotis, with my mother offering seconds while commanding us to "raj-ke khaa-o!" ("eat till you're satisfied") are emotional family heirlooms I'd like to pass down to my own daughter and future children.

Nothing says "home" like a roti made by Mom. And the comforts of this daily staple from a mother's kitchen, fully exceed anything bought from a chaat house, or eaten in a restaurant.

To act on these chapatti daydreams, I'll start with a baby paronthi with masala chicken or daal for my daughter, and then move on to choorie - bits of a parantha, mixed with butter and brown sugar - making it myself and hand feeding it to her until she is full, satisfied and content.

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