Monday, 27 September 2010

Memories and Legacies...

It's been a while since our last blog, partly because we've been busy working away on new products and recipes and partly because mine and Jay's Grandmother, Baa, had been very unwell and we sadly lost her just over 2 weeks ago.

For us Baa is the real founder of Devnaa - not only are we inspired by how she was famously renowned throughout her village in Kenya for her delicious cooking she brought her skills with her to England and continued to feed lots of family and friends for years after they moved here. She passed her traditional recipes and methods on to my Mum who combined these with what she had learned from her own Mother (our Nan) and then all of this was passed down to me.

One of Baa's most famous culinary tales tells of how she taught herself to cook by watching everything around her. Having moved to Kenya, East Africa when she was very young she was surrounded by people from various backgrounds. Different cultures and backgrounds from India all gathered and mixed together, there were traditional African dishes being made by the people of Kenya, as well as new spices and vegetable that hadn't been available in India at that time. She watched and learned and then would experiment, making lots of dishes, old and new, and then she would test them out on her Dad, our Great Grandfather, until he signed them off with his seal of approval.

Back in those days there wasn't much of anything to go around so the women from the village would gather together to share their specialist utensils when it came to making fancy traditional Indian foods at festival times. Each woman would have brought just a few of the special kitchen tools required with them from India so they would help each other and do a lot of their cooking together which created a great sense of community and spirit. Through all of this, as Baa grew older she became the 'head chef' of the group - especially when it came to making sweets! By teaching herself and making the most of all the knowledge around her she had created and honed new methods and recipes which created the yummiest sweets and snacks in town!

Festival times, especially Diwali, were the times when this 'community cooking' would really come together and and create the most amazing celebrations with the most astounding feasts! When Baa had married my Grandad (Bapujii) they lived in an area the ended in a large cul de sac. At Diwali all the women would get together and cook up their own specialties, each taking charge of their favourite dish - one would be kneading pastry dough, the other rolling it out, another making the filling, sweet or savoury, whilst yet another would sit and stuff and wrap them all together. Daughters would be in charge of frying on camping stoves or baking in home made coal ovens. Dads would be sitting aside talking and laughing and the Sons would be running around playing games and lighting fireworks for everyone to enjoy. When the food was all ready (the preparation would have gone on for days), they would all come together to set up tables at the end of the cul de sac and feast on all the fresh hot treats!

Jay and I were way far off in the future but it is stories like these that have inspired us to create Devnaa, taking flavours from all the different aspects of our backgrounds and putting them together to produce the confectionery for people to share and enjoy and evoke sweet memories of family and friends and good times together.

Baa may no longer be with us physically but her legacy lives on through us and hopefully we can help to inspire others just as she inspired us.

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