Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Having spent all of my adult life away from home, my homecoming always seemed like a veritable feast shouting 'Welcome Home' via a meal spread. As my sister used to enviously say, "You are always treated like a queen when you come home!".
Most of the time, 2-3 days before my date of going home, my father would call me, specifically to ask which non-vegetarian item would I prefer to have on the homecoming day. "Chicken anbo na Aar Machh anbo bajar theke?" (Shall I bring Chicken or Long whiskered catfish from the market?) - he would ask. And I'd be confused as usual as anything cooked by mother was fine by me. Nevertheless, it would be 'Aar machh' that would finally get the preference. So, on any homecoming day, the meal would comprise of bhaat (rice), shak (leafy vegetable), any one or two of my favourite veggies mostly Lau khosha bhaja (bottle gourd peel stir fry), dal (pulses soup) and Aar machcher jhol (catfish gravy curry). Of course, situations have changed but rice, pulses, a veg item and a non-veg curry remains a constant food that I still love to eat on returning home.
When asked whether she has any homecoming food preferences, a cousin of mine instantly replies, "Machh er jhol, bhaat" (Rice with fish curry). However, Koi (Climbing Perch), Tilapia (Tilapia), Charapona (baby Rohu or Katla) are crossed off from her fish list.
A friend and a co-blogger shared a similar choice of "Jeere bata diye patla machh er jhol, bhaat" (Runny fish curry made with Cumin paste and Rice) as her homecoming food. She also preferred additional dishes like "shak" (leafy vegetable), and "Aloo posto" (Potato in Poppy Seed paste).
"Nothing Special", said another ex-colleague and a friend, "just Bhaat, Chicken, til chichinge bhaja ba kumro beechir bora ba aloor torkari" (Rice, Chicken, Snake Gourd fry with sesame or pumpkin seed fritters or potato curry).
Each region or state in India has its own unique cuisines, dishes and spices. Accordingly, the homecoming food preferences often vary for each person depending on the region they belong to. An ex-student of mine hailing from Lucknow loves his "Chhole Bhature" when he goes home.
A friend from Rajasthan said she loved the "Rajma Chawal" prepared by her mother as her homecoming food.
"Ghar ka Khana" shouted out yet another friend from Haryana which includes Roti (Indian flatbread), Chutney, crushed onion, sabzi (vegetable dish), lassi (Yogurt drink)/raita. I had numerous opportunities to eat the "Ghar ka Khana" with her and fallen in love with the food.
A photographer and YouTuber friend from Tamilnadu loves his "Rice, Sambar (South Indian lentil and vegetable stew), Kootu (a much richer and heavier version of sambar), Kara Kulambu (cabbage, drumsticks and pumpkin cooked in spicy onion tomato gravy) and Poriyal (any vegetable fry)" any day.
While another old friend from Kerala loves her "Payasam" (rice and milk pudding) on returning home.
However, it doesn't always have to be home-cooked or parent-made food either. Another friend of mine always loves her 'Mcburger' on her way home from Delhi airport. She says it's a sort of a comfort food after all the journeys and hectic work schedules.
When asked what was his homecoming meal when he was younger, K salivatingly replied "bhaat, sorser tel diye kacha posto bata ar dim bhaja" (rice, raw poppy seed paste in mustard oil and egg fry). With a distant look in his eyes, he further added, "homecoming meals are just not about the food, it's a mix of emotion, nostalgia, comfort, oftentimes childhood food habits." I couldn't agree more...
What food do you love to eat on your return home? Is it home-cooked/parent-made/self-made food, or food from a stall or restaurant from your locality? I'd love to hear from you about your home-coming foods.