The more I awaken, the less I desire to fit in. —Unknown
Back in the 70s, as new immigrants in Canada, we did not celebrate our Indian holidays with much fanfare. Perhaps, it was because as a young Gujarati community we lacked our own temple, or perhaps it was the financial strain we faced, or maybe it was simply because in our new country, certain ingredients required to make our special foods were unavailable. Nevertheless, my parents would reminisce about how they had celebrated these holidays back at home. But come that special day, off we would go, to school and work, as if it were an ordinary day, with only the feeling that something fundamentally important was missing from our lives over and above a few ingredients in our pantry.
On the other hand, my parents made sure that we did celebrate our new holidays; those officially recognized by our newly chosen homeland. As a child, I loved decorating our Christmas tree, however small and scrawny it was; or searching for Easter eggs on a given Sunday morning. Yet, as I grew older, I realized that these holidays were not really ours. We were Hindu after all, not Catholic nor Protestant as the public school system would require us to choose between. These holidays started to feel like something borrowed; something to be used temporarily but never to be owned.
Present day, the Indian community here in Canada is quite sizable and within communities throughout the country, Indian holidays no longer pass quietly. Furthermore, ingredients for an Indian pantry are readily available not only in the many local Indian shops but the larger chain supermarkets as well. As for myself, I have come to be equally proud of both my Indian heritage as well as my Canadian identity and balance both with ease and no longer feel a need to fit into any one mold. Being in an inter-racial marriage, I’ve also happily inherited the holidays that had once felt borrowed.
From time to time, when I look at my beige children, I realize that they are as out of place as I had been, set apart by the same sort of unspoken divide. They may not belong to any one race, but the difference here is that I don’t want them to feel as if they need to. At the very fundamental level, they are quite simply children of this world, being taught to respect and love despite race, colour or creed.
With Diwali approaching, here is my take on the classic Indian sweet known as coconut burfi (or nariyal ki burfi). Indian sweets are not meant to be eaten in copious amounts as done in North America with let’s say cake. Nevertheless, even one small bite of an Indian burfi is often too sweet for my taste buds. But aside from the overwhelming sweetness, I love the flavours of Indian confectionery, be it the cardamom, the jaggery or the rich flavour of caramelized milk. So the only way for me to enjoy Indian sweets is to make my own with the sweetness level turned down a notch.
Cardamom Coconut & Cream Truffles (or Coconut Burfi)
(Yields about 40 balls)
- 200 g fresh coconut, finely shredded (do not include the thin brown skin)
- 240 g milk
- 240 g 35% cream
- 60 g raw sugar
- 2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup medium grade desiccated coconut for decorating (optional)
- In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the coconut with milk and cream.
- Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture. (You can omit this step, but I find it gives the burfi a creamier texture.)
- Stir in sugar and cardamom.
- Simmer on medium heat, stirring to ensure that it does not burn, until the mixture is thick (no liquid remaining). (It takes me about 50 minutes.)
- Stir in coconut oil.
- Refrigerate for a few hours. Once cooled, roll mixture between the palms of your hands into small balls (about 2 cm diameter). Coat each ball with desiccated coconut if using. Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.