By Paromita Naidu
I was born in India. But I grew up in Canada.
As a settler-immigrant, in the ’70s and ’80s, we did not have access to a lot of Indian groceries for home use, despite it being the staple cuisine of so many.
We all made do with the very limited selection of dried, tinned, and frozen (if we were lucky) Indian foods. We all congregated at the one Indian store in our city, when a shipment of something new arrived. The same store also rented Bollywood videotapes, of course. It was the heartbeat of community.
Our dishes were still beautiful, bountiful, and reminiscent of our motherland. Our diverse home cooks—from all over India—still fed our souls and spirits.
Then in the ’90s, more and more Indian products entered the market. A lot more fresh and frozen items were starting to be readily available, and regularly stocked. It was an exciting time. People of non-Indian descent started talking about samosas and butter chicken.
In the 2000s, local farms (mostly Punjabi) started growing Indian vegetables as consistent crops, and mainstream grocery chains in the bigger cities created the “Indian aisle”.
Why am I sharing this?
Because tonight I am making aloo-methi (a North Indian dish of stir fried potatoes with fenugreek leaves and whole and ground spices). The leaves are fresh and fragrant. The stalks are tender. And I feel pretty privileged.
I’m prepping small red onions (the Indian kind—IYKYK) and also pondering Justin Trudeau’s statement about the details of the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
As many of us sit comfortably in our homes, and cook tonight’s meal for our families—full of local daals, rice, rotis, spices, desi yoghurt, and fresh Indian vegetables—let’s recognize the MANY contributions of Punjabi-Sikh communities in Canada… on our plates… and beyond.
And let’s ALSO bear in mind that we can’t separate people’s contributions from their struggles.
Whether we relate, understand or oppose the deeper issues, we cannot extract what we “like” from people, and then abandon them when we are confronted with difficult ideas… OR ask them to give their best to Canada, but also abandon their beliefs.
From farm-to-table, and to distant lands, people travel with their recipes, their religion, and identities. We have to respect this.
Power plays out on our plates too.
Enjoy your dinner tonight.
Paromita Naidu is an immigrant settler, living and working in the ancestral lands of the Qiqéyt First Nation also known as New Westminster, B.C. Published in academic journals, as well as in mainstream media, her voice is sought by those looking for insight into Canadian social issues. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. Follow Pancouver on Instagram @PancouverMedia.