Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bella's Kitchen

Everyone has that one aunt whose house always smelt like Heaven was having a buffet.
Me too. My grand aunt, in fact. 

She made the most amazing potato & mince cutlets, beef fry, pulav rice, prawns…and these were just my personal favorites, mind. 
Everyone in our family has that one favorite dish of hers, that they love. To bits. Drool worthy love. 

I associate some of my most pleasant memories of Bombay, with her and her home. Being the youngest, I was pampered by her. And this is one of the few times I’ll admit it.

1981 - Aunty Bella & me

Whenever I visited her home as a child, there would be a Mango Frooti juice waiting. And Bourbon chocolate biscuits. Why? Because they were my favorites. And she cared.

If we were having a family dinner at her home – there would always be those cutlets that I loved. 
There would be beef julienne - especially for Mum. And Dad, well, he had grown up with it, so he just grinned and enjoyed it all, in that knowing way, "Yup, I told you this was coming!" 
If I was at our home and she had cooked something she knew I would like, it would get packed in a little steel dabba and one of her three sons would get on his cycle and come over - just for me.

She knew exactly what we all liked and she remembered. My family was only in Bombay during the summer holidays – but make our favorites she would. She cared.

Years passed. I went to college. Little changed. 

She still made the most amazing food and her kitchen still smelt like heaven. We still had family dinners and picnics to the beach. She loved to play Bingo. 
Her sons moved around the world and she went around visiting, every now and then. Her boys had children of their own. And they too had their favorite dishes that Nana made.
She was still the same fun loving, happy go lucky woman, ever ready to be part of a good laugh and of course - a special meal. 

The day her youngest grandchild Bianca was born. 

I decided to get married. The first time Dude came to Goa, we visited her home. 
Guess what we left with? A little steel dabba, with mince and potato cutlets. 
We finished them in the car on the drive back home.  

In Goa, we have a tradition where the bride to be wears a set of colorful bangles on both wrists. These bangles signify the blessings of your home, elders and good wishes for the new life ahead of you. In our home, my grand aunt was the one who came with us when we bought these bangles and she put them on my wrists herself. She cried, then blessed me and my future. 

19th July 2008 - my wedding day

We lost her last month,  to a disease that only she could fight with a smile. 
She seldom complained, was always cheerful and celebrated her birthday just two weeks before she passed away. She was happy. Surrounded by her grandchildren and the people she loved. She was strong and brave and wonderful - even as she fought her way through multiple visits to the hospital and dreadful pain. 

When we would speak and I would begin my conversation with, "Hello my darling!", I would always get a warm, "Hello my sweetheart" back. I could hear her smile...even when I knew it was hard to do in the middle of tired pain.  

No, we don't only remember the food. We remember the warm laughter and shy grin when any of us said the food was amazing. We remember the care and concern when she told her daughters in law and me, what to eat and what not to eat during our pregnancies. 
We remember each celebration and occasion where she cooked up a storm, making a little bit of everyone's favorite this and that - even when it was a tiny little kitchen in Dahisar to a much bigger one in Dubai. Because she cared. 

Our extended family all over the world remember her cooking. Bella che kaaiiz as my Mum's brother fondly remembered each time they would talk. Her sons friends through school, college and even now - remember. And no, it's not just the food. You know, you see and you feel the love that goes into it. You can imagine the heart that prepared the meal. And you cannot help but love her. 

Goodbyes suck. But memories are beautiful. So you remember the good times where we laughed, sang and lived. But you also remember the bad times where you saw how strong that beautiful heart could be. 
And you realize how lucky you were to have a Bella's Kitchen to go to - at some point in your life. 

Artwork by Joefery Barretto - July, 2013

We miss you, my darling. 


  1. Shan , this writeup for our Bella darling is absolutely touching. I just cant stop my tears as I read it.It is a masterpiece on Bella's Kitchen.So very fitting and an apt tribute to our darling Bella. All the pics with you bring back so many memories. Surely our Aunty Bella is smiling from above. God bless you and your gentle and amazing expertise with the pen. Love you.

  2. Hi Shan, Your blog on Aunty Bella's and her kitchen is out of this world...Phil