Both my kids were born on Tuesdays. Now, in the US , they say that the tuesday kid is full of grace.The old and the wise (read that as the elders in our family) say that tuesday kids are stubborn and bull-headed. I dont know about the first but my son is definitely showing signs of the later. But, now that I think about it, he does have a certain grace about his stubborness. There is a 'certain grace' with which he will plop on the floor and throw his legs about when he wants something he is not supposed to have and there is a 'certain grace' with which his voice reaches tempos, that most opera singers can only dream about, within a nanosecond of something going against his wishes or if he is at his pediatricians'. Oh yes, my little dude does have 'grace'. I wonder ,though, why his pediatrician can't see it.. My daughter is too young (2 months as I type this) to show signs of this. However, she observes everything that her brother does very intently, so that can't be far behind.
The point, you ask. In hindu mythology, tuesday is the day of Shri Ganesha. Yes, the elephant-headed god Himself. I have always had a special affinity towards this deity. You can't be part of Bombay and not feel so. Ganeshotsav is always a big part of Bombay. This festival celebrates the diety's birthday and it is done with great pomp and splendour. To have both my kids born on His day has only made it that much more special for me. Every Month, the fourth day of the second fortnight(Krishnapaksha) is considered Sankasthi chaturthi. Thats the day after the new moon. They (again, the old and wise) say that fasting on this day gets rid of all the sankat (hardships, troubles) coming your way. Fasting includes not eating regular food, eating only satvik foods till the moon rise. Pray to Shri Ganesha, pay homage to the moon, offer naivedya to both and only then eat regular food. Satvik food is pure and fresh vegetarian food that is prepared without the influence of onion and garlic, and with very little spices. The category is further shortened when your regular grains and cereals are also supposed to be avoided. So no rice or wheat. Basically, you are supposed to avoid food that generates too much heat in your body. Naivedya is an offering to God (Niveda is sanskrit for offering hence Naivedya items).
I observe a fast on this day.
Don't ask me why. I am not gullible enough to believe that fasting for a day, every month would really make life all smooth and full of rose-tints. I do it, however, because it gives me a feeling of control with regards to something that I actually do not have any control over. It makes me feel that I am doing something to protect my family. Its all a part of being a parent, all part of trying to make life perfect for the kids. Deep within you, you know there is no such thing as a perfect world, you know that they are going to have to overcome their own share of hardships to make a good life for themselves, you know there are going to be pitfalls before they reach the peak of success and more importantly, you know that there is not a darn thing you can do about it except tend to their bruises and wounds. Thats where the prayers come in. Its funny how being a parent humbles you.
You would think that depriving youself of food for a whole day would be tough, but its not. There is an entire different set of recipes that are just so filling and delicious that you almost forget that you are fasting. Almost. There is an equally delicious set of recipes that are used as naivedya. Since I do this every month, I am now starting a series of monthly posts recording foods I prepare for fasts and naivedya.
So, join me for delicious food , snippets on hindu mythology and a prayer.
I made Malai Modak as naivedya today. Modak is a steamed dumpling stuffed with coconut and jaggery and is supposedly Shri Ganesha's favorite. I decided to make these non-stuffed modaks the way I make malai pedas, just shaped like modaks. I make these with ricotta cheese. If you are one of those purists who consider that blasphemy, you are most welcome to make khoya in the time honored way of heating up a gallon of milk in a heavy bottomed vessel and then reducing it on low flame constantly stirring it. In about 3 to 4 hours, you should have khoya. Me, I have a pact with God. The only allowance I make, seeing that this is naivedya, is that I buy organic ricotta cheese with no preservatives.
16oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder
3-4 Strands Saffron
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Heat the ricotta cheese in a wide mouthed pan on medium heat for 6-7 mins. Stir quite frequently. The cheese would first melt and then regain its texture. Add the cream, saffron and cardamom powder and keep stirring all together till all the liquid dries up. Crush the saffron strands between your fingers before adding them, this way they will bring in more color and taste. Keep cooking till the mixture regains the texture of ricotta cheese, about 10-12 mins. Add the sugar and cook on high flame till the mixture forms a ball. Remove from flame, add the ghee and mix well. Allow to cool a little and shape into modaks or pedas.
To shape into modaks, take 1 tbsp of mixture and make a smooth ball. Now, using the all your fingers pull a little bit of a mixture ,elongating it. Press the other side of the ball on the counter or the plate. To shape into pedas, take a tsp of the mixture, shape into a ball and flatten it a little between your palms.
This recipe will make 21 modaks/pedas, exactly the number for the naivedya.