long before audumla licked the salt that shaped buri, before vasilisa walked the path to and from baba yaga’s hut, before sita burned herself on a blazing pyre, before isis went in search of osiris’s chopped up body, there was mummy jaan:: the good mother of my heart:: my mother’s mother who combed my hair with gentle yet firm hands, making loose braids of my curly locks while telling me stories that all began with “yekee bood, yekee na bood” and often made no sense:: farsi tales about opening doors and the breeze blowing in and solomon and elephants coming to play that would break their tusks in the arena along with mullah’s riding donkeys backwards through the bazaars:: i loved listening to her telling them before she’d tie off the end of my braid and pat my shoulder to indicate she was done. then i’d get to comb her hair and braid it.
she was a petite woman with bird like bones, yet her jaw was set and her hands were strong::rippled with knotty veins, big knuckles and a pebble for a wrist bone, where her bangles would jangle in sixes. her feet were the same in short heeled pointy open toed slippers that click clacked on the cement floors; toes bent toward each other and an enormous bone pushing her big toe at an odd 45 degree angle inward. all day she’d be in darted floral kameezes, shalwars to match with a solid chiffon dupatta, draped in a U on her slight chest, going over her shoulders where the ends would dangle down her back. we loved playing in her closet, my sister and i, where she had a rainbow of these dupattas in so many shades and tones of fuchsia, magenta, cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, indigo, pthalo blue::blue, to fall awake into. she was generous with her clothes, giving us saris to dress up in while we’d watch as she’d put on her blouse and petticoat, do her hair up in a bun with U shaped pins and motias to sweeten the air, line her eyes with surmaa, freshen up her mouth, then tie her sari on in the evenings; ready for tea time in the garden where my grandfather waited for her, all ways his bride.
she was generous in the kitchen too, where she’d give us coconut water fresh from coconuts off the trees out back and the best part::: soft fleshy pulp from the empty nut, mmmm!! if you’ve found your way here, what i have for you is a recipe for simply put::making good milk to feed your baby. of course this assumes you breastfeed and if you don’t, there’s excellent writing woven into the web to convince you of its benefits, and if you aren’t looking to be convinced or aren’t a woman::: well it’s really tasty regardless and will warm you up in the winter as it’s a heaty treat! it’s what my mother and aunts ate, and my grandmother and great grandmother, and other mothers, aunts, and grandmothers and great grandmothers in a spiral of women long before i can remember the smells of coconut shreds toasting golden, pistachios roasting purplish green alongside creamy sesame seeds crackling and popping during those long afternoons that mummy jaan would be moving stuff in and out and around the stovetop on her black tavvaa, stirring and shaking, and she’d give me some of the nuts to eat while she did her work:::she was such a busy lady in that oh so big seeming kitchen, where you’d need to be with a big pan and wooden spoon in hand to make this postpartum breastmilk manna, that is at once nutritious, nourishing, and delicious!
it’s a nut and seed mixture that promotes lactation and healing for mothers postpartum, while being warming in more ways than one. there are variations on the ingredients that go into making it, along with exact recipes and specific proportions. the way i came to it was through childbirth and experimentation::this rendering being the one i like best and made most recently for my sister to enjoy after she had her baby boy. it is my summer soulstice sharing, which is when my beloved Grand Mother passed on a dozen years ago to be united with her groom. give it a try, play with it, the proportions can be adjusted to suit your taste buds; above all enjoy the making! it’s name is panjeeree, panj meaning five, it’s a stellar food for eating . . . .
For approximately 1 gallon, enough to eat for 6 weeks postpartum plus extra to share, you’ll need:
a large mortar and pestle or a grinder, like you use to grind coffee beans (but not the one you’ve ground coffee beans in)
a really wide large frying pan or wok
a small frying pan
a big mixing bowl
a cookie sheet or two
a wooden spoon
1 lb. cream of wheat (a.k.a sooji at indian groceries, i use bob’s red mill cream of wheat)
1 stick or 4 oz. butter (or ghee)
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (or chaar maghaz if you go to an indian grocer for supplies)
1 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/8 cup white poppy seed (khus khus at indian groceries, it has to be white poppy seed and is optional)
1/8 cup gum arabic (optional, it’s available as gondh at indian grocery stores)
2 tsp. – 1 tbsp. green cardamom seeds crushed/powdered
1 – 2 cups sugar
Warm the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and roast them until they’re fragrant, stirring and shaking to prevent scorching. Remove and cool. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and the pumpkin seeds on another (these take less time) and roast them until slightly toasty, golden, and aromatic . . .. remember to shake and stir. Once they’re all cool, grind them up and keep aside.
Heat the small frying pan on medium-low heat till nice and Hot, then add the sesame seeds and stir. They’ll crackle and quickly turn to a golden color, remove and cool. If using the poppy seeds add them to the same pan and repeat the process, then add the gum arabic (if using) and shake or stir it around . . . it should pop and change from amber/gem like to popcornish and white, which is when it’s done. Remove and cool this too. Once cool, grind all these up by hand if that’s what you fancy or in the grinder. Set aside.
Now warm the large pan/wok on the stovetop, melt the butter/ghee in it till they’re hot and pour in the cream of wheat and stir stir stir fry it till golden brown and aromatic . . . . you might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Pay attention and stir, as it can scorch quicker than a blink! I like to add the sugar and cardamom to it just as it turns golden, stirring it all together then pouring into a very big mixing bowl where batches can be married if needed. Taste it so it’s sweet enough to your liking (it’s going to get less sweet when all the other ingredients get added, so it usually starts out seemingly too sweet . . . . same with the cardamom, I like mine strongly spiced, but you can use less for a milder hint or more if that’s how you like it). Once you’ve got this in a mixing bowl add all the other ingredients and mix them up real good.
Bottle or store in glass containers, making sure it’s cool, and keep in the fridge or a cool, dry place.
Now for the yummy part:: pour a mug of at least 8 oz. milk (or almond milk, soymilk, rice milk , etc.) into a small pot and add between 1 – 2 tbsp. of this mixture to the liquid. stir till warm, pour back into the mug, and enjoy . . . keep a spoon handy to stir and eat the bottom bits with!! i drank this once (ok sometimes twice) a day for 6 weeks after birth and then till it was gone; my kids have dranken it too and eaten a spoon here and there . . . . my sister says she sprinkles it on cooked couscous, drizzles on maple syrup and then pours milk over it when she doesn’t want it warm; sounds good indeed 🙂
bon appetit and a good solstice to you wherever you be.