How to encourage family time: India Style

Written by Liberty Shockley (University of Cincinnati) Student Correspondent UW in India, Summer 2017

Are you looking for magical moments with your family? Here’s how!

  1. Break the internet

Without internet there’s no Netflix, Facebook, or Buzzfeed articles. It can be so frustrating for them to load that you give up and would really rather chat with the person next to you.

  1. Provide a box of sweets

Everybody loves sweets. If you walk in with a box of ladoos, everyone will come crawling out of their corners of the house to taste a few.

  1. Remove the AC

You’ll all crowd in the coldest room. ‘nuff said.

  1. Get a rope swing

This is for a more adventurous family, such as mine. Try tying a rope to a tree, if available. If not, just tie it to a strong part of your ceiling in the hallway of your home. You’ll discover many ways to twist your body to avoid hitting the walls.

  1. Cook a meal together

You can recruit your family to prepare a meal together. Veggies need to be chopped, dough needs to be kneaded, and rice needs to be cooked. There will always be something for everyone to do.

Riti swings on our ceiling’s rope swing

One night last week, my roommate, Chloe, and I got it in our heads to make dinner for our host family. Our host mom, Sarica, and our host siblings, Riti and Raghav, were so excited that we were going to cook. Our other roommate, Bailey, had made delicious Eggplant Parmesan the week before, and we had so much fun sitting together, chopping vegetables, watching the pieces of eggplant get lost in hot oil, and finally sitting down to enjoy the meal. It was one of those things where the smell of the food drew everyone in to help and get excited for dinner.

Chloe and I talked about making breakfast for dinner, like pancakes and fried potatoes, but it would be difficult because my host family has a stricter diet due to the month of Shrawan, Shiva’s month, so we would have to get creative. I stayed up way past my bedtime thinking of things to make until I stumbled upon the perfect dish: empanadas. I had an eggless dough recipe up my sleeve! I checked the kitchen, I would even have all the ingredients to make it. I wouldn’t make just plain old empanadas though, I could do Latin American-Indian fusion! I settled on Fried Chili Paneer Empanadas, Latin spiced Green Pepper and Potato Empanadas, and Mango Coconut Empanadas. It was time for me to flex my chef muscles, and really see what I can do without recipes or cooking methods I’m used to. I was so excited I could barely sleep.

Fried and ready-to-fry empanadas

The next day, another student, Bikash, and I picked up the produce needed for the filling of the empanadas, Riti and Chloe got sunflower oil for frying them, and Chloe got ice cream. With all the ingredients laid out on our kitchen table, I knew this was going to be fun. I made the dough while Riti and Chloe chopped vegetables. After they cut up the mangoes, they mixed it with coconut powder which made a delicious goop. I stole bites of this before we’d even cooked any. While I started making the Chili Paneer and sautéing green peppers and potatoes, Bikash and Bailey jumped in and started filling the empanada dough. As I was frying some, my host mom and dad joined in to help, too. By now we were hungry, and Raghav was running around trying to steal pieces of mango. We got a really good system going despite it feeling like a tornado of mushy food and sweat; I would bring fresh ones to the table, and they’d eat one or two as they continued preparing empanadas, until finally, we went through all the dough.

I am lighting the gas to heat the oil in my home

We cleared the table, which was desperately needed. It is my staunch belief that food tastes better when a bigger mess is made. I was right, my first bite into a Chili Paneer Empanada was an explosion of giddiness. It was spicy, it was crunchy, it was gooey, it was everything I wanted it to be. We made room for every person, and immediately broke out the ice cream for the mango ones. I had Raghav on my lap making faces at the foreign fried ball, my friends laughing and falling out of their chairs, and an overflowing pile of food that has probably never existed before. It was a moment I’ll never forget, another moment where I really value the power that food has to bring us together.