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Valley's Winters - Time For Nostalgia And Salt Tea

Srinagar: Traditional recipes - with chicken and turnips - and folk tales weave a blanket of warmth over Jammu and Kashmir during the cold winter days // .

'Rooster and turnip cooked over a simmering fire a whole night in an earthen vessel tickles the taste-buds with its rich aroma,'says Muhammad Sidiq, a resident of Srinagar. This special dish of 'shab deg', which was an integral part of the supper ritual at his ancestral home, is still a mouth-watering memory for him.

'My grandmother would engage the entire family to dress the turnips and fowl. You had to be careful not to remove the bird's skin. Then a new earthen pot was arranged for. The actual cooking would start only in the evening.

'Over a firewood hearth, the vessel would be sealed shut with dough and kept to simmer over a low fire the whole night. The matriarch of the family alone had the privilege of opening the pot and serving the dish,' Sidiq adds.

'All of us would eagerly wait for the big treat. It not only provided the extra calories one needed to brave the winter cold but also renewed family bonds. It was more of a social custom in which the grandma served as a pivot around which the entire family revolved,' he recalls.

This is not the only traditional recipe the locals are now trying to revive. The nostalgia is for bringing back to life a cohesive social past that was essential to the joint family system.

Smoked fish and dried vegetables like pumpkins, brinjals and tomatoes that had been painstakingly preserved for the lean winter months formed the compulsory stock to ward off shortages.

And to cap the culinary adventures, people gathered in small groups in each locality to listen to fairy tales of demons and golden-haired princesses.

'I still persuade my children and grandchildren to listen to 'Gul Raze' - a Kashmiri epic written by Maqbool Shah Kralwari. Despite their IT education, they are able to appreciat
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