This is a story about one of the 4 weddings I attended while I was in India last-this year. It involves many people, many mini stories and many, sorry, lots of good times. It also has stress and all that other stuff you just laugh at in hindsight. I got a lot of hindsight in me right now so I’d like to invite you for Round 2 of this jamboree.
Michael and Nirmala (Nimmi)’s daughter Minila, or as she likes to go by, Miah (the “h” is important) had a wedding this year in February. It was a destination wedding, and the destination was conveniently an hour away from where I lived, in Goa. Her whole family showed up and her then not-yet husband Ajay was also hanging around there saying hi. My sister Jane and her husband Sidney were making the official photos. I would get to see them work for the first time. These were exciting times.
I met Miah in college. She had moved to Bombay from Saudi Arabia and my father used to work in Saudi Arabia – instant connection! I don’t know what I’m talking about. Miah hates moths, butterflies, coconut and the phrase “pregnant pause”. We went to the same classes for 2 years and she cut off a huge chunk of my hair (from the front) one day saying that her aunt was a hairstylist in New York. She wasn’t lying but I don’t know what made me think it was okay for her to take a scissors to my hair. Voila, bangs. She was always weirdly convincing.
Three days before her wedding and she still didn’t know how she wanted her hair and make-up. She had both sides of her face painted in 2 different styles and went back and forth, trying to make up her mind (get it?). She then went out in public with that make up, to a restaurant that is known for its puri-bhaji-ish meals and says “I feel like having a Breezer.”
Alcohol. In a tea shop. You’d get it if you were Indian.
Miah is funny. Miah’s whole family and best friends in a villa in South Goa, are funnier. We spent the day before her wedding cutting out party favours and listening to Ajay’s stories about waxing his knuckles. Back in the villa, Michael and Nimmi were tired…and hungry. Having to entertain out-of-town-in-vacation-mode relatives is no joke. So Miah’s dad (Michael, in case you forgot) went to get food. Every time he saw us, it was as if it was for the first time. He would say hello and ask how we were. He never remembered Jane’s name but he always knew how well Sidney was.
Michael came back with his wife and pancakes – filled with jaggery and coconut and wrapped in a gluten high 5! I think I ate 2 of them, but only because I knew there were others to be fed. We all stood around and ate. I guess it doesn’t mean very much when you are eating but as I sit here and type this, those pancakes were everything. It was so many, many years since I had eaten that pancake. It had been even more zillions of years since I had that pancake with that filling.
Later we spent the night cutting more wedding thank-yous while listening to stories and strange Konkani-English translations. Miah decided she HAD to put save-the-date/engagement photos on facebook, in case people forgot her wedding the following day. We hoped some of our other friends would show up to add to the entertainment but it was okay that they didn’t. I’d like to tell them that they missed the most amazing night except it was so normal. I would be lying. But normal breeds perspective. Normal bleeds clarity. Our normal is crazy. And fun. So we continued cutting paper, laughing at our dysfunctionality. It was around midnight that we called it a night.
MIAH YOU WERE GOING TO GET MARRIED.
How do you even go to sleep after that?
Miah and Ajay slept, woke up and then got married. Their ceremony was good, the reception spectacular. My youngest sibling made the cake and my eldest sibling made the photos. I made a mess and the guy at the bar made me a drink, to help make me forget that I was leaving Indian in 2-ish weeks.
I’m unsure how being married is supposed to feel. I saw my sister, cousin, friend and Miah do it. I’ve done some marrying myself. Still, it’s surreal stuff. My marriage transplanted me to America. My sister has a new puppy and if I knew Miah any better, I’d say she has a lot more urgent things to think about: Food.
From the coffee and tea we shared at the dining table in our temporary refuge to the dal and rice we ate past 9 pm with family – they might as well be family – Miah, your wedding was a picnic. The best kind! I hope the marriage thing is just as much blue skies, beach and amazing food because that’s what keeps us going.
Rice flour wedding pancakes
Is it a thing where the first pancake is always doomed to disintegrate? No matter how high the temp in the pan is, it always happens. I won’t beat myself up over it. I love these pancakes. They taste rice-y, as they should. The first 2 weeks I came back from India, this is ALL I ate. I’m not lying. I made many versions of it to calm my homesick soul and it worked. Rice really is a cure for everything! If you live in the US, your Indian store will carry jaggery. It’s unrefined cane sugar and it’s gold. The darker the jaggery, the more the health benefits. I bought a lighter coloured jaggery from the shop across my house in Goa because I obviously don’t care about health. Can you tell I’m joking? Please say yes.
- 250 gm rice flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg (53 gm), at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups almond milk or whole milk
- 1 cup water
- Clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil, to fry
For the filling
- 140 gm grated coconut (you could use coconut flakes but the unsweetened kind)
- 100 gm jaggery, broken into small pieces
- ½ tsp cardamom seeds, ground
Mix the rice flour and salt in a small bowl until combined. In another bowl, break and beat the egg. To it, add the almond milk and stir. Add the liquid into the flour and whisk until it forms a batter. The batter should be thin, but still viscous (somewhere between thick and thin). Add more water (like I did) or milk to get to this state. You should be able to spread the batter on a pan by just pouring it in and moving it around while holding the pan handle. Set the batter aside.
To make the coconut-jaggery filling put all the ingredients for the filling into a small pot on medium heat. Add a tablespoon or 2 of water to it to get the jaggery to break down and cr…melt. Once it has completely disintegrated and become one with the coconut, take it off the flame and set that aside too.
Put a large non-stick pan on the stove on medium-high heat and coat it lightly with ghee. Wipe the excess grease (if any) with a paper towel. Pour about 2-3 tbsp of the rice flour batter into the pan and spread it around. When the edges of the pancake start of lift off the pan and bubbles start to form in the centre, flip it over carefully. Repeat pancake-making with the rest of the batter.
Take the pancake (which is almost like a crepe at this point) and put some of the coconut filling in it. Roll it up and eat while still warm.
You can store leftover batter in the fridge for up to a day. If you have leftover filling and not more pancakes, eat it with oatmeal (SO good).