Guest Blog Post: Sanskar Teaching with Vaishali Patel
Indian families, and especially Gujarati families, live for food and family time. My mother-in-law loves saying,
“Why do we work hard in life?
So that we can afford and enjoy good food.”
Food is at the heart of all of our family gatherings. Growing up, my mom only knew how to cook Indian food, so that is all we ate back then. Times have sure changed, as we are all constantly introduced to a multitude of varieties of global foods, some healthy and nutritious and some loaded with salt, sugar and fat. In our house, we have a rule: one meal Desi and one meal anything we want it to be. This is because just like everything else, I want my kids to make sure they know their heritage through learning about and developing appreciation for Indian food. Preserving our culture and heritage and remaining grounded to our roots is very dear to me. Food is a big part of that.
I was privileged enough to have experienced the first 16 years of my life in India. I came to the United States at a very impressionable age where I wanted to immerse into the culture of my new life so badly that I didn’t want to have anything to do with being desi. I wanted to feel included and feel like I belonged here, so I stopped speaking Gujarati, eating desi foods, wearing desi clothes and I tried things considered not “sanskari”(good). I went off to college, fell in love, got married and moved to a new town. I had aspired as every other Indian person to go off to Medical school but God had other plans and I got pregnant with my baby girl. A year later, I was pregnant again with my boy. Motherhood changed things for me, I wanted to be there for my kids and immerse myself in being a full time mom.
As my children got older, I realized more and more I wanted them to value and learn about their culture and heritage. I began to see things I had pushed away for so long in a new light. I wanted my kids to be able to speak Gujarati and know the Gujarati way of life. Thus, I drove two hours each way from San Diego to Los Angeles so they could learn Gujarati. I volunteered at the Gujarati School. After many years of this, we found ourselves exhausted. I realized the arduous drive wasn’t worth it, but the deep desire to teach them Gujarati stayed with me. Those who learned from me at the Los Angeles temple school asked me to find a way to keep teaching them all the way from San Diego. So, we found a way in the form of video chats and online learning. SanskarTeaching was born. For the last 3 years, we all get to enjoy the ease of teaching and learning from the comfort of our own homes. No one has to drive for hours to make sure their kiddos learn the Gujarati language and culture.
I absolutely love teaching Gujarati. There is a lot of work that goes behind in creating and modifying the curriculum to best accommodate students of all levels. We love creating Gujarati and Hindi learning products to help families make this learning more fun. Through social media I have met so many wonderful and inspiring women and I am grateful that I listened to my heart and jumped in creating this brand. Our long term goal is to make Gujarati language and cultural learning available and affordable for everyone.
Since food is such a big part of our culture, my digital and live courses both include segments about learning the words for food. Homework may include a trip to the farmer’s market or grocery store to identify various foods. For the kids it’s about the language and words. For the adults who follow @sanskarteaching on social media, it’s about the recipes, so while I don’t consider myself a professional cook, once a week I post a recipe on Gujarati Food Fridays. This is always something yummy that I loved as a child in India or that my American born children love from our heritage.
Here is the recipe from one of my most popular posts:
Khaman: (Yellow savory sponge cakes)
(by Gita Patel)
Gluten free (Can be made Vegan)
1 cup Chanaa ni daal
2 tbsp Greek Yogurt/ Vegan Option: 2t Lemon Juice
2-3 green serrano peppers
1T ginger, minced
2t Eno/Baking Soda mix
1T Olive oil + 1T Olive oil for vaghar
1t mustard seed/Rai
2T Cilantro chopped for garnish.
1t Asofetida (Hing)
Steamer or a medium pot with a daatharo or small stainless steel plate facing down
1-2 bowls Water for steaming
1 medium-large stainless steel plate or Kathrot
Blender or Vitamix
2 bowls of water to Soak the daal in
1. You can soak the Chanaa daal overnight or even just for 2 hours
2. Blend the Chanaa daal, serrano peppers, ginger, Salt, Yogurt or lemon juice with 2-3T of water or more if needed to get medium thick consistency.
3. Boil the 2 bowls of water in a medium pot to steam the Khaman
4. Take a medium plate, add 1T of Olive oil, add the blended mixture in this plate and add the Eno/baking soda mix and mix well.
5. Put this plate in the medium pot to steam on top of the small plate facing down. Make sure the water level is low and does not touch the top plate.
6. Cover the lid and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat
7. Turn off the heat and remove the plate using mitts as the plate will be hot
8. Let cool off for 10 minutes
9. Cut these into pieces and eat like this or continue…
10. In a small non stick pot put 1T of Oil and add mustard seeds and let them pop, then add the Asofetida(Hing)
11. Add this mixture on top of the plate of steamed Khaman
12. Garnish with the Cilantro
One thing I have learned in this process is that there will be doubts, fears, and judgements along the way. There will be times when you won’t feel worthy enough, there will be times when you won’t feel qualified enough and just when you think, who wants to learn that? Listen to your heart. There is someone out there who can benefit from what you have to share—even if it just a good home cooked meal, so don’t hold back.