An Ode to Kanji

Turmeric pickling in the sun
Glowing with secret warmth.

Hand-pounded mustard
Burning fire in my throat.

Little tiny flecks of chilli
Dangerous heat of passion.

Floating in your cage of glass
Reflecting the dimming sun
Watched by eager eyes awaiting the turn of shade that is your zenith,
And my goal.

Bitter, sharp, pungent
Lovechild born of stolen sunny moments in winter.
Kanji of a dozen tiny suns
Soft sponge exploding love in my mouth.


4 thoughts on “An Ode to Kanji

  1. Thank you! I was experimenting with a new style, wasn't sure if it would work… I've never written "foodverse" before. Anyway, about the Kanji… I'm not surprised u haven't heard of it. Its not a very popular dish. I think it is Rajasthani in origin. You'll find it in Marwari households, and in the UP-Delhi area. Its sort of a liquid pickle that is drunk by the bowl. There are varieties, but the one that i like (the one in the poem) is a deep yellow colour with small spongy dal vadas in it. Everything is put into a glass jar and left in the sun for a couple of days. See, in the north, in winter its so cold that people sit in the sun the whole day. Thats where they chop vegetables, take the afternoon nap, munch nuts, etc, and thats where they sit and drink kanji, hot from the sun. Its really sour and the sharpness of the mustard can bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated. Unlike stuff like palak paneer or pav bhaji, most people take a really long time to develop a taste for Kanji. And many are too scared to try it because of its sharp smell. But I love it! In fact I think I had too much because I now have the loosies 😦

  2. Awesome 🙂 You don't come across too many poems about food and cooking so this could be a cool genre to add value to. And I know what you are saying about drying fruits/vegetables and preparing pickle in the sun, having seen my grand mom preparing mango and lime pickles which I would start binging on even before they were ready. Never tried Kanji though, if I ever happen to visit North India anytime soon, I will try to build up my courage to "sample" it :p

  3. @ Soumalya: Visit in winter… I think Holi marks the end of the Kanji season… It is possible to make Kanji in summer also, of course, but in summer the sun is so strong that the Kanji starts coming off its peak almost before it reaches it… And the spending the winter days in the sun thing, we have built an entire culture around that. In winter we eat green chana (plucked off the stem and peeled) roasted groundnuts in the shell, musk melon seeds, etc. All of these things are very time consuming. The point of the activity is more as a pasttime than to satiate hunger. And now those activities have become so ingrained (at least for me, even thought I haven't really done the whole thing except for vacations) that as soon as its winter, I start craving groundnuts and green chana! Do try Kanji if you get the chance. People tend to have very strong opinions about it. You either love it, or you hate it. Its hard to be neutral about. Apart from the yellow one I mentioned, there is a deep red one which is coloured with beetroot and features carrot and cauliflower.

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