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Lent / Chaturmas – time for Self-control, self-discipline and self-reflection
Ombré style pancakes

Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Some religiously follow that for a year. Some for month and for some it lasts for a week or even as short as a day. I have been there and done that, so, for the past few years, have made a resolution of not making any resolutions and funnily enough, I have managed to keep that.

What does a resolution means? As per dictionary definition – ‘A firm decision to do or do not do something’. It’s nothing but self-control and self-discipline. But, for a human being, when someone says don’t do it, we are more tempted to do it and vice-a-versa. Sometimes, we need external forces help us follow a certain routine. Religious festivals and rituals always help us in this area.

In Christianity, Lent period is one such time. Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries or abstinence. It is observed for 6 weeks or 40 days before Easter.

Many people observe strict fast or some give up meat, fish, eggs and fats until Easter Sunday. Some choose to give up one item, such a s chocolate, smoking or alcohol. Recent years people also given up watching T.V., social media etc. during this time. Many people do follow it for strictly religious reasons, and some look at it as the opportunity for self-control and using this time for self-reflection.

In India, we have similar thing called ‘Chaturmas’ (pronounced as chaa-toor-mass). ‘Chatur’ means four and ‘Mas’ means month. It is a period of four months. During this time many people give up meat, eggs, fish. Some people observe fasts. There are various ways in which people observe fasts. Some eat only once a day, some eat certain types or one type of food or give up certain food items, eat food only cooked by themselves etc.

Intermittent fasting is the new black. But it has been a part of Indian culture since ancient times. Alternate day fasting, Eat-Stop-Eat, 5:2 diet, 16/8 method all these have been the common methods of observing fasts. I have seen my parents and grandparents observing these fasts. Of course, their intention was more religious but unknowingly along with mental health it benefited their physical health as well.

Similarly, in Lent, the main objective is to live simple life, so, people give up certain luxuries or maintain an abstinence. A couple of years ago, I tried to restrict my social media access. I had exited from all chat groups to have ‘Chat free Chaturmas’.

Suggested food restrictions also have science behind it. July-November are the months during which Chaturmas is observed. This covers monsoon and autumn seasons. Due to the rains it is difficult to travel. In olden days, it was even more difficult hence people were mostly stationed at one place. Because of this restriction, this was the perfect time to look after your physical and mental health by eating healthy food and meditate or perform spiritual activities, Therefore, you will notice most festivals celebrated and rituals are followed during this period.

Because of the rains, there used to be high chances of water borne diseases hence extra attention was given to health. Hence, it is advised to avoid eating meat, eggs or even fish and even leafy vegetables as worms surface due to rain and infest leafy vegetables. It is advised to avoid eating all the foods that will easily cause indigestion or are heavy to digest such as tubers, aubergines, pulses, tamarind, berries, onion, garlic etc.

It is believed that looking after your physical and mental health prepares you to face the coming winter and the spring as well. When one is going to embark this journey ofself-discipline, austerities, and fasting for four months then that person should be content otherwise may feel weak and cannot follow what has been planned. Hence, certain celebratory occasions are made available in this period so one can indulge in the food which is going to be restricted during Chaturmas. One such occasion is called as ‘Kande Navami’. ‘Kanda’ means onion. This is last day when you will use onions in you cooking. So, people make various food items which use onions. Onion pakodas are one of the commonly prepared food items.

Similar thought process is seen in the western culture. People do not eat meat, fish eggs, fats during lent. People try to finish all these items before the lent period begins as these food items are not going to last for 40 days. Meat and fish can be preserved but eggs, milk and fats need to be consumed. Hence, the best way to finish eggs, milk and fats is by making pancakes.

As per Wikipedia, the term Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. In United Kingdom it is referred to as ‘Shrove Tuesday’ or ‘Pancake Tuesday’. One is expected to obtain absolution for one’s sins by confession or penance before Lent period begins.

This is the only weekday in a year when I make pancakes other than weekend. Every year, I try to make some variation. One year, I made carrot pancakes, one time it was savoury pancakes with smoked salmon and cream cheese and chives.

This time, I am making Ombré style pancakes with some Indian flavours.

Featured Recipe

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