|Earnestly working on painting clay lamps|
Bhoot Chaturdashi, the day before Kali Pujo, Bengalis have a tradition to light fourteen lamps and place them in fourteen dark corners of their home.Choddo Prodeep we call it.
|The lamps that were painted and decorated by BS and LS|
I remember rolling cotton wicks in the palm of my hand and helping my Ma light the fourteen clay prodeep which had been washed and dried in the sun all morning and were waiting ready, filled to the brim with golden Mustard oil. After the lamps were lit, came the next step, the most interesting one in this process. We had to find the darkest corners of the home to place the lamps, corners where darkness was thick and black like a blueberry jello and a flickering lamp could merely make a feeble statement .
There would be one placed near the tulsi plant, one on the outside window sill of the bathroom, a third by the choubachcha -- the water tank in the backyard, and then the rest by the doorstep of each rooms. This day was all about darkness and flickering clay lamps unlike the day of Deepavali when rows of slender wax candles would be stuck around the front verandah and lighted up to dispel any essence of darkness.
Bengalis also have a tradition to cook and eat fourteen different kind of greens on this day. Choddo -Shaak it is called.
Now I can understand the logic of fourteen lamps to dispel the darkness and bring light or to pay homage to fourteen ancestors, whichever theory you live your life by. But I have never understood the worthiness of fourteen greens. I mean you buy fourteen different kind of greens, which itself is a daunting task, then you chop them up, scary prospect and then cook fourteen different kind of dishes with these greens. Why ? Really why ? Am I consuming the year's worth of Vitamin A on this single day ?
So anyway the choddo shak never excites me, too much work.I would rather light lovely lamps, have a nice cup of hot tea and take pictures of both lamp and tea instead. Most that i try to do is, to cook one or two leafy greens and maintain traces of a ritual that has it origins. This year it was the simple Begun diye Palong Shaak, a classic Bengali recipe where Spinach greens are cooked with cubed pieces of eggplant in mustard oil and a Pui Shaak cooked with pumkin, eggplant and potatoes.
The star of the night however were the lamps, four of which were painted and decorated by Big Sis and Little Sis. They had much fun painting them and sticking them up with jewels. It is really an easy craft project for small kids and requires plain clay diyas,some paint and self stick rhinestones. The girls do not care for the fourteen, and we rarely light oil lamps, so this involvement in the whole prodeep thing charged them up and they waited and waited till evening fell and we lighted fourteen lamps.
Begun Diye Palong Shaak
Wash the spinach greens well and chop fine
Next chop an eggplant in small cubes. The idea is to have about 2 cups of cubed eggplant for a bunch of spinach
Heat mustard oil to smoking. Temper the oil with Kalonji, Dry Red Chili and a clove of garlic minced
Add the eggplant and saute till eggplant is soft.
Now add the spinach mixing it with the eggplant. Add little salt to taste, a few green chili slit and let the spinach cook. The greens will release a lot of water. Stir intermittently and let all the water dry up. Once the spinach is cooked and the dish looks dry add a little kashundi if you have some. If not finish off with a little mustard oil.
Serve with white rice.
Wishing you all a Happy Deepavali. Stay tuned for there is a giveaway coming up.