On Writing (and Not Writing) About Mutton Biryani

Nandita Dinesh at Literary Hub:

I was going to write about mutton biryani, the multi-layered, aromatic, mouth-watering rice preparation of which my grandmother created her own version—I clarify that it’s “her” version because every family has its own biryani recipe.

Each home’s biryani has its own preferred star ingredient—goat, lamb, chicken, egg, potatoes, or paneer—and its own first step: frying a shitload of thinly sliced onions; par-boiling basmati rice for just the right amount of time; marinating the chosen star ingredient in ancestor-defined ratios. And each has its own biryani masala: home-made, store-bought, or a mixture of the two.

I was going to write about why mutton biryani matters to me; how its preparation symbolized “occasion” during my childhood. How it is a particularly poignant allegory for the ways in which flavors collide and mingle in India’s worlds, and how the dish carries a unique, evocative aftertaste for which I have no words in Malayalam, Tamil, English, Hindi, or Spanish.

More here.