It’s never easy to pack your bags, leave everything familiar behind and start a journey for something ‘better’. But I can say that it’s much much easier now than it was before…and I mean ‘long before’. I have two Indian grocery stores close to my house. I can complain that the store close to my house does not sell fresh Indian vegetables and that I have to drive for 45 minutes to get them. I was whining and nagging for quite a while because I was looking for dried Kashmiri chili peppers and couldn’t find them. I wanted to make vindaloo and didn’t want to compromise on the chili peppers. Am I not spoilt? Of course I am. I have the luxury of complaining. I can put a Facebook status message to look for the authentic spice and how sad I am not to find it in Patel brothers (the king of Indian grocery) and get 200 responses and 20 different sources to find them.
Right before writing this post, I read an article about the Bengali immigrants in the United States during the late 1800’s. They were among the early immigrants who came as seamen and then jumped off the boat to find a less brutal life. They came to the boardwalk of Atlantic City, NJ and moved further north, west and even far down south to New Orleans, LA. Being very few in number and mostly men, they had no choice but to marry women from other communities, mainly Venezuelan, Creole, Spanish and African-American. In retrospect, it must have been almost a one-way trip for them. In a world barely past the age of sailing ships, most of them probably knew they would not see their families ever again. The struggles they saw in those early days are not even comparable to my much softer landing in the US. I can’t even say that I had to ‘struggle’ to survive here. I think it would be hilarious if they knew that my biggest problem when I first came was to find place to get my eyebrows threaded.
Some of them tried to hold on to their Bengali heritage and some of them tried to blank out their past just to assimilate into the society. Being not only immigrants but also people of color, neither was an easy thing to do. It’s still not easy. Being a Bengali who’s lived in the US for almost seven years now, I am still kind of doing the same thing minus the real struggle. I am leaving some of my traditions behind while still clinging to some. Unrestricted by the unavailability of ingredients or opportunity, I have the luxury of maintaining many of my traditions. Damn it, I can even make nolen gurer payesh on Saraswati puja (the celebration of the goddess of education) and then write about it on my blog. I feel like a queen now.
You can find the recipe here. The only difference is that you can replace the sugar with the notun gur/jaggery. If you do not have enough jaggery, you can add half sugar and half jaggery or any proportion to your preference. Once the payesh riches the desired consistency, take the pot out of the flame and then add the jaggery. Otherwise the milk might curdle.