Remembering loved ones through food
Chitra Ravi, Friend of V for Life, discusses how recreating a deceased loved one's favourite meals can be a beautiful way to honour their memory.
When we lose someone very close to us, at least for a short time, all our priorities appear to change. We tend to evaluate our lives – what we are doing, what we should be doing, and so on. Somehow the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in one’s life seem to fall into place (perhaps temporarily), and we get a rare glimpse into what truly matters to us. One such thing that indeed truly matters is cherishing the memory of that special person.
When my dear father passed away, I spent a lot of time with my family pouring over old photographs trying to remember the different occasions – why that occasion was important to my father, what he did at that time, the smile on his face. Objects connected with him like his glasses, the chair he usually sat on, even a faded t-shirt he wore often – these all became very, very precious. During this period of grief, I discovered another powerful and living way to pay tribute to the memory of my dear father, one that is very healing as well.
His birthday came soon after he passed away and he wasn’t there for me to wish him well. The grief was still raw and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and not get up. Then I thought of how that would have saddened him. He always tried to cheer me up if he saw me depressed. I somehow found the energy to get up and I decided to cook some of his favourite dishes. It was a sad sweet time for me, but one full of memories of him.
He was something of a connoisseur when it came to food and was quite proud of his culinary skills. As I cooked, I remembered the little cooking tips he talked to me about, which were also an integral part of my cooking. I recalled how he would insist on minimal use of cooking utensils, not wasting water, using the right sized containers for storing food, and more. I was also thinking of the numerous times I had made the same dishes for him and how much he had enjoyed them. I was busy: it gave me a purpose for the day. And when I finished cooking, I felt all the better for it. The active process of curating the dishes helped to channel my grief in a more positive way.
Maybe the birthday or anniversary or some special occasion of a departed one is coming up for you. Why not cook a meal of all their favourite dishes? Or, even better, invite family or friends over and cook the meal together, conversing and sharing your memories of that special person? As you sit down to eat, maybe have a moment of silence to remember that person or say a prayer or even raise a toast in their memory. Why not make this a regular thing to mark such important days? This is not only a beautiful and therapeutic way to reminisce about your loved ones, but also one to build sweet memories of these shared occasions.
In memory of my father, I am sharing one of his favourite recipes – ‘Indian Spiced Carrot Soup’. This is from a vegan recipe blog that my daughters and I jointly have: Turmeric Yoga. On the website you can find more such vegan recipes, and also read about our experiences of vegan food around the world.
Indian Spiced Carrot Soup
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 medium onion
- 2 small tomatoes
- 1/4 inch/0.3 cm ginger
- Small bunch fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp oil (I used sesame oil)
- 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 8–10 black peppercorns
- 8 cashews
- Pinch asafoetida
- Coriander (for topping)
- Poppadums to accompany (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Chop all vegetables except coriander into small chunks.
- Heat the oil and fry the cumin, peppercorns, coriander seeds, asafoetida, cashews until the spices are aromatic and cashews are slightly brown.
- Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 2–3 minutes.
- Add two cups of water so that the vegetables are completely submerged and cook them until soft. (Use a pressure cooker if preferred.)
- Cool completely, and blend the cooked vegetables until smooth. Add the coriander at the end and blitz briefly just until green flecks appear. Blending too much will release some bitterness from the coriander, and also affect the bright yellow-orange colour of the soup.
- Add a cup of water and mix well. You may add more water if you prefer a more liquidy consistency, or less for a thicker soup. Heat the soup again, stirring continuously and add salt to taste.
- Enjoy hot, topped with chopped coriander and toasted poppadums.