Dining Diwali Style
Millions of people around the world are celebrating Diwali today.
Known as the festival of lights, it symbolizes good over evil and light over darkness and is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs in India and around the world.
In Nepal, during their equivalent festival, Tihar, dogs who are considered to be messengers of the God of death, are blessed with marigolds during a ceremony.
And closer to home, in the US, where an estimated 0.7% of the total US population, or 2.2 million are Hindu, celebrations will be had as well, despite the fact that many Hindu Americans don’t know what the holiday is all about, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post.
And to be totally honest, neither did I.
I came to learn of it quite by accident and I must share something a bit personal here.
Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while knows a few things about me.
I love cooking. I love teaching others to cook and I love seeing that a-ha moment when a client learns that it needn’t be a choice between food that tastes good and food that is good for you.
And along with my love of cooking comes my love of learning more about cooking. New recipes, new techniques, new dishes and especially ways to take any type of cuisine and recreate it, if need be, into something a bit healthier. That may mean preparing cilantro coconut chicken curry without the use of a gluten-based soy sauce or an authentic Cassoulet using duck legs confit and Merguez sausage imported from Toulouse but skipping the Tarbais beans for those who prefer to avoid legumes.
As such, it has become a tradition in my house for cooking challenges to be presented. Namely, for my, by my husband.
It might be something as simple as to find a way to utilize an entire pineapple for an entrée, or a regional challenge involving a cuisine I’d never before prepared.
And this week, it was one word: Diwali.
To elaborate, the challenge was to research and prepare a Diwali meal for the two of us.
Off I went to begin my research.
Traditional meals, according to a piece in The Guardian, tend to revolve around sweets.
- Indian sweetmeats, known as “mithai” are a cross between snack, dessert and confectionery.
- Chickpea flour, rice flour, semolina, various beans, lentils and grains, squashes, carrots, thickened condensed milk or yoghurt are normally used as base ingredients; to which cashews, almonds, pistachios, chirongi nuts or raisins are added. Fragrant with sweet spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg, they’re further blinged up with saffron, rose or kewra (pandan leaf) water, and silver or gold leaf.
Oh, dear, I thought! How am I even going to attempt this? Given that my whole premise for following a healthy, Paleo inspired eating regime specifically veers away from the whole idea of sweet, that is?
Fortunately, it took only a little more digging before I found an insightful source, which proved to be all I needed to plan my menu, The New York Times.
Dishes such as Mark Bittman’s South Indian Eggplant Curry (easy enough to swap out the chickpea flour for coconut), Alex Witchel’s Pork Vindaloo, (perfect way to prepare the pasture-raised pork procured from the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market!) and Molly O’Neill’s Indian-Spiced Zucchini-Coconut Soup, the perfect way to warm up during these chilly fall days (ok, I admit I’m a wimp for saying that 59 F in LA is chilly…but it is!), will make for a lovely meal this evening for Chris and me.
I’ll present it with a simple side of cauliflower rice in lieu of basmati and our meal will be complete.
And to drink?
As neither he nor I are big fans of sweet type drinks, I’ll eschew the traditional sharbats., made from fresh fruits, herbs, flowers, essences and sandalwood syrup in favor of something a bit simpler.
Savory with a hint of sour, a cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire, a twist of lime and some muddled herbs from my new garden will balance out the heat if I opt to go a little crazy with any of the chilies in the recipes.
Be sure and tune in tomorrow for pics and a special recipe or two!
 “Diwali 2015: The Festival of Lights – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015
 Barooah, Jahnabi. “Diwali, Hindu Festival Of Lights Goes Mainstream In North America.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
 “What’s Eaten at Diwali.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web
 “Diwali Main Dishes.” NYT Cooking. New York Times, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
 Bittman, Mark. “South Indian Eggplant Curry Recipe.” NYT Cooking. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015
 Witchel, Alex. “Pork Vindaloo Recipe.” NYT Cooking. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015
 O’Neill, Molly. “Indian-Spiced Zucchini-Coconut Soup Recipe.” NYT Cooking. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015