Birthdays when I was a kid were simplistic affairs. It was the 70's. The most glamorous birthday song I had ever heard was Johnny Walker singing "Happy Birthday To You" on Binaca Geetmala. It was a good thing that we hadn't watched the movie and there was no YouTube to see the song. Other than Johnny Walker and Joy Mukherjee no one seems to enjoy that birthday party, not even Saira Banu in her parrot green saree and complicated hair do.
Anyway even watching that movie would have had no effect on my parents. They are Bongs and Bollywood is not their forte, at least it wasn't until cable took over. Birthdays in our home meant a silver bowl full of paayesh studded with plump raisins, a new dress, touching feet of elders, blessings that wished for a long happy life, limp ten rupee notes shoved into reluctant and eager hands and a special dinner of yellow pulao, cholar dal, doi maach and chutney cooked by Ma.Most years a couple of my neighborhood friends would join in for dinner when Ma would invite them casually with "Aaj raat e amader barite kheye jas"(Have diner at our home tonight). They would come, their hair neatly tied in plaits, their hands clutching some book by Russian authors wrapped clumsily in a red paper and they went back happy with no expectation of a return gift.
Nothing about those birthdays had to be pre-planned. The only point of contention was whether it was Cadbury's Eclairs or Parle Orange candy or Ravalgon chocolates that would be taken to school. In fact the high point of my birthday between the age of 8 to 12 was distributing candy in school. We spent many a days discussing, which other girl I would take, other than the best friend of course, with me doing the rounds of other classes. Also when we went to other classes, which girls we would ask to come out and share the sweets with. This was a difficult task since every other class had a sister, a cousin or a friend of my classmates and they expected to be called out.
Birthdays thus seamlessly fitted into our daily schedules and we got an year older just like that.
Now stories of birthday parties in India scare me. Apparently kiddie parties are handed over to event management companies and it involves an emcee and bollywood dancing. Yikes !! How do you celebrate a kid's birthday party wherever you are, would love to hear.
A few days back the littlest one turned a year older. She wanted a cake, a party and a teapot. So a party was had, at our home, in the backyard.Sprinklers were turned on, water guns were used in full force,water balloons were filled and busted in a matter of seconds and much fun was had. I decided to cook most of the stuff at home and it wasn't easy given that there were 40 grown ups with 20 kids amongst them. I had some pointers from Indo last year and I tried to keep the menu simple. I also outsourced some stuff like shingara(samosas) and vegetable chops. It is not me who fries a batch of 50 samosas with nary a glazed look in her eyes. Those things are better left to professionals.
But I did cook huge quantity of mutton in 4 batches in my Pressure cooker. The fact that I decided on the Mutton Rezala, made it easier. I marinated the huge quantity of mutton with all the spices a day ahead.The mutton soaked up all the spices with 16 hour of marination and cooked fast and was very flavorful. Then I made the Goan Shrimp Curry. Again the spice paste, the star ingredient was made at least 2 days ahead and on the day of cooking making the gravy was easy peasy. Then I made a Fulkopir Roast with Coconut, the recipe was part Ma's and part from my FB readers. It was a big hit.
One of the things that eased the load on day of cooking was making the wet masala pastes , the dry masala powders all in batches through out the week. I had also fried huge quantities of chopped onions and made a paste of them two days before the actual cooking. Using this fried onion paste shortened the time of cooking and there was this one less thing to do.
It was a fun birthday party and Little Sis loved all the attention. I have no picture of foods from the day obviously so what I am going to share instead is the Guacamole that I made as a dip for the starters.
Choose ripe, fresh avocados. How to choose, I don't know. I just bought them some days ahead and the were right on the day.
Peel and de-seed. Check this to see how to cut an avocado. Scoop out the pale green innards. With a back of a fork mash it up.If you want it chunky you can keep it this way. You can also pulse it in a blender if you want a smoother version
Add the following
few drops of of Mustard oil(optional, I like it)
some lime juice
throw in some chopped red onion
finely chopped green chili next
a sprinkle of cumin powder
some tangy chaat masala
a pinch of sugar
and lots of fresh corriander.
Just go with your instinct with the quantities and adjust spices etc. according to taste.
Mix everything together and cover tightly with a cling wrap. I refrigerated for a day and it was good. The acid in lime juice helps in keeping the color intact(else it tends to go brown) so be sure to put enough of it
Serve with pita breads, chips or with Pametini, oven toasted Italian bread; my current heartthrob