• Sufia Alam

Buttering up Ma While Making Bread

Updated: Aug 3, 2019


Flour, water and salt. Pouring, kneading and rolling. This simple bread that fills up with air when on top of heat to form the perfect circle, have hundreds of years of history to them. And although just a 15 minute process, the strength yet elegance that is required to learn this traditional Indian bread is often one that is taught generation to generation. More specifically, mother to daughter.


Although the bond of mother and daughter is a special, sacred bond acknowledged in all cultures, every family views this relationship in different ways. For example, there’s the best friend dynamic, or the Lorelai's and Rory's. The traditional mentor dynamic, the Donna’s and the Sophie’s or a mixture of best friend and mentor, the Rainbow's and Zoey’s.


Because, my mother has always had nurturing and caring roles as her strongest qualities throughout my life, I often view our dynamic as one of Donna's and the Sophie’s.



The process of teaching any type of dish is often an act that entails so much more than learning the food itself.

The process of teaching any type of dish is often an act that entails so much more than learning the food itself. That time is more spent learning family secrets, or which cousin is doing great in life, and which relatives need to get their act together. It’s about truly connecting with your heritage and understanding why something so simple is the pride and joy of your family.


My memory of making roti is associated with my sixth through eighth grade summer years in the kitchen. Hours at a time, learning how to first recognize how much flour and water is needed. Then knowing when to stop kneading to allow the dough to rest. Then learning how to shape them into the correct ball size so they can be rolled later. And finally, learning how to properly flatten them with a rolling pin and begin the heat application process. The heat process being warming each side of the roti on a stove top, and when ready, transferring it directly on top of the flame for the most exciting moment; the bread slowly filling up with air and dancing in the fire.



But more importantly, I remember those middle school summer years with my mom sharing the first time she saw a t.v. in India in her 20’s. How she secretly went over to her friend’s house after her curfew, at 10 p.m. to look at this tiny, 3x3 box that was showing moving pictures in black and white (remember India was eons being the rest of the world in terms of technology).


I remember her sharing an incident when she first got married and was living with my dad’s family in India while he was completing his Master’s in America. How one day she asked her brother in law to bring home some fruit because she was craving them, and how instead he brought her tomatoes and told her to put salt on them - a trademark move for the famous cheapskate of our family. Tomatoes were a couple of cents or paisa at the time while fruit was a couple of dollars or rupees.




I hope this Mother’s Day all those nostalgic memories can once again be unlocked when you surprise your mother with that dish that she so proudly taught you.

I remember her sharing when she was my age she would sneak in with her baby brother, my uncle to her neighbor’s backyard and slowly climb on papaya trees to steal for a snack. How every time they were caught, her neighbor would plunge her flip flop as hard as she could at my twelve-year-old mom and her 5-year-old baby brother. Sometimes she would miss but most of the time her aim was perfect.


So whether it’s learning the perfect casserole, fried chicken or pecan pie that’s been passed down generation to generation with your family doing the dish best, I hope this Mother’s Day all those nostalgic memories can once again be unlocked when you surprise your mother with that dish that she so proudly taught you. Maybe even learn a new fond memory that makes her more “her” and less “mom.”



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