Payesh

Payesh is a Bengali rice and milk pudding sweetened with date palm jaggery. This divine decadence will have you dipping your spoon in again & again till the payesh is no more. My recommendation, do this with eyes closed. Today is ganesh chaturthi. As I pray to the remover of obstacles, by offering this payesh, I’m also hoping for health, wealth & happiness for you & your families.

I used dates and cashews in place of milk in my vegan version. Oats provided a nice textured cadence.

My colleague, Rima invited me home for a Bengali lunch. While her mother busied herself putting the finishing touches on the meal, Rima & her brother made me feel welcome.

A little bit of background on Bengali culture. With their keen attention to culture, Bengalis are known for their artistic side. India has produced many famous Bengali artists, Nobel Prize winner, Tagore being among the most well known. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that Bengalis gravitate towards thoughtful conversation. Bengalis and tamilians have a mutual admiration society going on. Both value knowledge and frown upon excess of any kind. With this backdrop in place, let’s go back to Rima’s home.

The way I was raised is also crucial to this story. My mom had instilled in us a serious respect for those wiser. Like the use of the pronoun ‘vous’ in French, we were trained to tag along the respectful ‘neenga’ in Tamil when we spoke to otherwise we risked stern glares. When I spoke to someone in Hindi, I’d automatically do a mental translation to tag a ‘ji’. A yes is ‘Han’, respecfully becomes ‘Hanji’.

Aunty would pop in every now & then with a food related question. I’d say ‘hanji’ which is a respectful yes in Punjabi parlance.

Rima’s brother observed my interaction with his mom patiently. After about 5 minutes, he beckoned to Rima who left the room.

She returned quickly smiling. ‘He’s asking if you are Punjabi. He’s surprised that you keep using Punjabi words like ‘hanji’ when you are a south Indian. ‘

HahaI got it.. I had erred unknowingly. For a cultured Bengali, Rima’s brother just couldn’t come to terms with a tamilian using language from the north. It felt fake to him, even though it was completely natural to me, having been raised in Delhi. But, he didn’t know my mom’s training school manners. So I explained myself.

It was his turn to laugh. Cultural appropriation gone awry!

That laughter coincided with aunty bringing in payesh.

You need

¾ cup dates
½ cup cashews
2 cups water
¼ cup oats
1 tbsp grated jaggery
2 tbsp roasted bananas
1 tbsp roasted cashews

Soak cashews and dates for about ½ hour in hot water. Puree in blender with 2 cups water.

Set aside. Dry roast the oats on hot pan till lightly browned. Add the pureed cashew & date paste to the pan with water. Stir on medium heat till the oats bubble. Remove from heat.

Garnish with grated jaggery slivers (use sugar if unavailable) and dry roasted cashews and bananas.
Wasn’t this tasty?

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