In Memoriam- for Mader and the innocent victims who died on Friday, March 12th in Lahore…
Asked what one thing he wanted from the outside world before being hanged, a prisoner once said, “Bring me a bottle of Shalimar, to remind me of the best things in life.”
Feeling a little flat all day, after hearing about the 10 suicide bombings which took place in my hometown of Lahore, I took a little walk after work to our local department store. I went to the Chanel counter to apply Chanel No. 19 to my wrists. Bergamot and sweet cut grass, the scents of my grandmother, Mader, who left us 20 years ago this March.
A lady beyond her time. The first lady to have completed a Master’s degree in Economics in Lahore, Pakistan. A lady who knew the Art of Ikebana…
…and quoted “Things past redress are now with me past care,” from Shakespeare’s Richard II, as one would a nursery rhyme from childhood. A leader in the civil service, and The Matriarch of our home.
I was very young when Benazir Bhutto ran for office, Mader and I stayed up all night, waiting for the election results. We desperately wanted a woman to become our Prime Minister; the first female ruler of a Muslim State. We rejoiced in the early hours of the morning when Benazir Bhutto won, and Mader let me take the day off from school. I don’t remember what we ate, but I am sure it would most certainly have involved an aubergine dish and Victoria Sponge Cake, her favourite.
Mader had undergone a double mastectomy and confident lady that she was, refused to wear any sort of brassière to show the world otherwise. All her bespoke kurtas, pieced together with delicate floral fabric from Liberty of London, rested softly on her flat chest, covered with a chiffon dupatta in a criss-cross. When I hugged her it was not soft and pillowy, but I loved hugging her, regardless. In the daytime, her hazel-green eyes changed colour with the mood of the sun. Every night I watched, as she applied Pond’s Cold Cream and when she left us, her skin was like milk.
Like Mader, the Sassanian Empress, Pourandokht, must have been a lady beyond her time, too. “A monarch, regardless of being a queen or a king, must defend his or her land and treat the people with justice,” the Empress said. She had a love for yoghurt-based cold salads, which were named after her as Pourani. Over the years, according to legend, this type of dish came to be known as Borani.
I want to dedicate this post to the innocent victims and people of my hometown, Lahore, who perished on Friday, March 12th. May the bloodshedding end, soon.
And to Mader, my paternal grandmother, who passed away 20 years ago this month, whose scent I miss, whose homemade mayonnaise I miss.
And whom I think about whenever I have a question, and know, only she would have the answer.
Also, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone in the UK.
Photo Credit for Ikebana arrangement: The Zen Images Ikebana Blog.
Borani is a cold dish of vegetables slathered in yoghurt. In this dish I have used spinach. The creaminess of the yoghurt pairs so well with the grassiness of the dried mint and fresh spinach. A scattering of chopped walnuts and a trail of olive oil complete the dish. Serve with lavash or whole wheat pita as an appetiser. Or as a side for the main course.
*2 6oz packets or approximately 400g baby (or regular) spinach
*1 clove garlic, minced and divided into two separate batches
*2 tbsp olive oil (not your best, but the type you use for sautéing)
*10oz or approximately 300g very thick, drained yoghurt (I use 2 small tubs of Greek Yoghurt, ‘Total Fage’, it comes in a 5.3 oz tub)
*dried mint for garnish (please do use dried vs. fresh mint, therein lies the beauty of this dish- the use of a woodsy, earthy dried herb)
*handful crushed walnuts
*your best olive oil
*Blanch your baby spinach.
*Drain well, make sure to get all the liquid out. Chop fine.
*Sauté 1/2 clove of garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil and add the baby spinach. Add a pinch of salt. Stir for a few minutes.
*Remove from stove, allow to cool, then squeeze out any excess liquid.
*In a bowl, add yoghurt, 1/2 clove of minced garlic, baby spinach and stir gently. Add salt to taste.
*Transfer to the bowl you are serving it in (I use a shallow, round bowl) and sprinkle with dried mint, crushed walnuts and a lazy trail of olive oil.
*Serve with lavash or whole wheat pita.