Welcome to the second entry in my Remembering India series, where I share recipes, meals and adventures from my 2008 studies abroad. Today I share a recipe for ghee, which I first tasted after visiting with a group of kids on a construction site in Thane.
It took four weeks of studying in Mumbai for me to find myself face-to-face with a jar of ghee. I’m sure this had a lot to do with eating the majority of my meals in restaurants and my school cafeteria, where I never gave any thought to the fats and oils that cooked my food.
Instead I was busy familiarizing myself with bigger-picture items—like the names of breads, vegetables, spices and sweets. There was paneer, chicken, mutton, and lentils to be concerned with—all served with variations on the aforementioned breads, vegetables, spices and sweets. The possibilities were endless, leaving my brain about as full as my belly—with hardly any room to consider one of the simplest combinations of all: rice and ghee.
In the four weeks leading up to that revelatory dish of rice, I had no idea that a gentle flame and 30 minutes were all it took to transform sweet and creamy butter into a nutty, toasty and more mature version of itself. I also had no idea that this delicious staple was so widely used—both for cooking and for healing.
This all changed one hot June afternoon, thanks to a comforting home-cooked meal with my friends Aarti and Apurva. We were refueling after spending the morning with an unforgettable group of kids at a creche in Thane.