IN SEARCH OF KESAR MODAK!

Visarjan nightmares post-Ganesh chaturthi… Along the beach side and across the countryside, a real shame considering how we are Mother Earth worshippers and Lord Ganesh is an eco-friendly God!



By Tara Narayan

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

DON’T know about you my friends but I’m rapidly losing patience with the manner in which we go gung ho ho over our religious festivals. When are going to become conscious about all the eco-damage we do in the process of showcasing out celebrations for religious, social, commercial, political causes? For example, Ganesh Chaturthi. Is our religious insight stuck in hoary times which say get these painted idols of POP or whatever of the elephant god home annually, dance attend for 10 days plus, plus to whatever rituals laid down as per out dated ancient dotted lines?
Don’t dare to change the rules even a bit to give priority to a Mother Earth reeling beneath the onslaught of our man-made kachrapati of plastics, other vile materials, loads of carcinogenic chemicals…altogether poisoning our air, earth and water? Dirty air, dirty water, dirty food! Are we totally lacking in sensibility and sensitivity, so stuck in a rut of religious festivities that we cannot modify, adjust anything to be more reasonable, rational – must we reduce life to stupid show-off galas, turn everything to a cult bad and ugly?
If you’re asking me as a mod con society we’re losing our marbles! I mean, these days come a celebration or festival and I want to stay far away from the rigmarole of rituals which have long since outlived their raison d’etre. Of course it’s on to promote a message of buy one good Lord Ganesh idol and worship it extra specially every year. Like I do. I have this wonderful hard clay Lord Ganesh idol some 300 years old or so says the hubby.
Come Ganesh Chaturthi I rinse “my Ganesh idol” off under the tap and very simply do the basics: light a diya, a camphor aarti in brief, tantalizing incense sticks beckon, I have an offering of flowers, leaves, fruit…a sweet ukadyche modak or ladoo (seeing how so much of Lord Ganesh lore is to do with ladoo stories)…a prayer or two and I’m done.



Better than shop mithai! And also far more economical…. besan ladoo, moong ladoo, mysore park, desi ghee motichoor ladoo, kardant, etc.

But you will say that’s because I have no children, no in-laws, no judgemental hubby who is in any case says his gods died young for him, even if he will pop a prasadam ladoo with joy! Well, faith is something we hang on to for our own peace of mind to do with kismet or karma, however you want to define them…whatever keeps us more or less on the straight and narrow path of a life without too many bitter regrets.
Surely, it’s time our religious or spiritual practices are tempered with progressive ideas of sustainability, in the fitness of things present even if rooted in the past? I do believe that a little goes a long way when it comes to religion, all religions. All our religions today need to be overhauled for review and transformation to become more vitally alive to situations and the myriad tragedies of life which overtake so many of us.
Well, this said. I must confess come Ganesh Chaturthi, Deepavali or any of our major religious markers of life, although I’ve stopped doing too much at home, I do look for a sweet something like good besan ladoo or jalebi.This year I was mesmerised by the thought of ukdyache modak or kesar modak! The first I couldn’t find in the marketplace, but there were all kinds of asli and nakli kesar modak! Kesar modak at Rasoda were Rs1,000 kg (from the Rs700 something elsewhere) and no big deal, I didn’t get the taste of fragrant saffron or kesar at all!
Nowadays I prefer to buy the excellent and more economical Sri Krishna or Sushila Grah Udyog or Arthavala’s selection of mithai in boxes – be it mysore paak (there’s even a malai mysore paak), various poshtik ladoo including besan ladoo, try the SGU’s panch khadya arfi/ladoo which lists ingredients like “jaggery, coconut owder, khric owder, dink, haliv, pure ghee, khajoor, khaskhas, jaiphal…even the Haldiram’s mithai is good. More reasonably priced at Rs90 to Rs130 or so for about 200g box or packet. Mithai shop stuff is generally just too over-rated, overpriced at Rs400 plus, plus. Even the jalebi from highly rated places comes odorous with dalda ghee! Seriously, give me the Sri Krishna besan ladoo or kesar modak any day.
NEEDLESS to say the best sweets in the world are dates, figs, raisins golden and blackish munnaka, dried berries and cherries, munaka or black rasins (which Ayurveda advices we should soak a tablespoon of overnight and eat the next morning for coolness and much else). All manner of naturally sweet dried fruit is agreeable vis a-vis sugar doped shop mithai. Give me a handful of caju-raisins any day!
Or better than everything else a few pieces of fresh coconut kernal – which is the all-time favourite prasadam of them all. The fruit of the kalpavriksha tree – coconut. Break a coconut (symbol of the human ego) and distribute the kernel pieces…delicious, yummylicious. Even our temples have forgotten that this is the original prasadam and won’t give a few pieces of coconut prasad to visitors, and it upsets me! I go to temples rarely nowadays. The religions of the world annoy me too much, they’re not in sync with the times and modern day progressive thinking at all.
All of this is not to say I won’t occasionally drap a saree and go say hello to mahadeo at a temple when I feel like it, which happens sometimes. My mahadeo doesn’t live in a temple but in gardens and flowers and leaves and maybe beneath grand banyan and peepal trees…I hear him in the music of rustling peepal trees and the joy of a tinkling bell, fragrance of diya, camphor and incense sticks wafting in the wind near the seaside! All this is to do with memories of growing up like a weed in my old hometown of Penang in Malaysia. For me religion means Mother Earth at rock bottom, okay.

New in town…. Padaria Prazeres has an uncommon array of bakery and confectionery temptations like berliners, pizza breads, ciabata sandwiches, almond cookies and much more! We like the mango kasaundi very much! Check the chalked up board for the day’s goodies.

SO coming back to the ways in which we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi will someone start a movement to spread an awareness of more and more eco-friendly celebrations? No use of plastics majorly which by now all of must know degenerate to microplastics seeping into water bodies, in marine life bodies and ultimately in our own bodies? We destroy our food chain, we destroy everything. As a civilisation high on mod con lifestyles we have very little time left to save our only first home – Mother Earth. We are busy destroying it in all the ways we can and pretending otherwise like ostriches in denial, no?
OKAY, to move on, I’ve been savouring these berliners!
WHAT’S IN A BERLINER?
ACTUALLY, there’s a new confectionery or confeitaria in town Panaji, a pretty sort of French or should I say German-styled cafeteria with potted plants outside, glowingly warm within where one may sit by a window to look out at the quiet street without…a board chalks up the day’s fancies. Right, it’s called Padaria Prazeres. Niz Goenkars may recognize the family in Panaji. This is to say it was at this come lately cafeteria that a couple of weeks ago I tumbled into the place and saw my first berliners – that is, a selection of German doughnuts which are quite different from America’s fatso powdery sugar and cinnamon dusted doughnuts.
Berliners are smaller mildly sweetish balls without a hole in the centre – but they may be cut through and filled up with custard, jam, jelly, marmalade, etc. Say berliners are yeasted mildly sweet fried golden brown dough balls. The berliner tempting me was stuffed with creamy cheese with a piquant jalopeno slice in it offering a picklish flavour. Delicious, very yummy-licious, never mind the calories. Berliners are fried affairs of course and yes, they must have originated in Germany’s Berlin where it’s said they date back to some hundreds of years.
Don’t ask me why I’ve taken a shine to these, my first berliners in Panaji. No other bakery has them, not even my other favourite places which tend to be Gletta Fernandes’ 18 June Confeiteria or Mr Baker’s which have some of the Portuguese time confectionaries and breads.
(Sigh) Goa is a confectionary state with several local bakeries doing local read loaves and some more upmarket cafeterias specializing in bakery and confectionary items – cakes, tarts, pastries, rum balls, rolls, buns, pizzas…usually more sweet things of life than sour tart savouries. I usually look for interesting savouries like a quiche and now a cream cheese berliner at this come lately Padaria Prazeres…they also do some ciabata bread which I find too scratchily lightweight if you know what I mean, but check out their ciabata sandwiches.
Other things: I once saw croissants and savory pizza squares of onion and olives, also some interesting itsy bitsy temptations like almond madeleines and cheese puffs…you may find the much loved Portuguese tart of pasties de nata here, carrot cake and banana cake. And before I forget, amongst the select range of pickles I found mango kasaundi, an irresistible buy…nice, very nice but has a sweetish tangy taste. Something tells me I could happily relish a croissant with a dollop of any kasaundi be it of mango or mustard.
Long ago in Mumbai that was Bombay I discovered that sandwiches of dill pickles and cheddar for an office time lunch break box. And kasaundi is superliciously (my coined word, okay) to live for! Dill pickles and cheddar also marry well in a sandwich.
This is to say Padartia Prazeres is upmarket so naturally pricy. Still, enjoy a hot or cold coffee over a tete-e-tete here with your favourite friend one of these afternoons. Say hello to Stacy and Ralph Prazeres, that is if they have time to breathe! Padaria Prazeres is a pretty young venture with Ralph reportedly having got his Le Cordon Bleu certification from London. Ah ha, that explains the chic European-styled cafeteria in the heart of Caranzalen in Panaji. But the one thing I am waiting for is a cafeteria which not only puts up prices but also calorie counts of their item numbers!

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