A Warm and Homey Christmas In Mumbai

Happy Holidays to All of You!

Lalita Monteiro and I grew up in Mumbai as Catholics – two of less than 1% of the population of India. Now living in Evanston, Illinois, we continue some of the traditions of our childhood – especially the making of the sweets. Our parents came from Goa, a small state south of Mumbai which was once a Portuguese colony and which still shows a lot of Portuguese influence. Goa has become the destination for celebrating Christmas and the New Year for not only Indians but also by foreigners. It is also a popular destination for weddings.

My very favorite Christmas sweets are Kulkuls. They consist of making a dough of flour, eggs, ghee (clarified butter), cardamom seeds, coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Kneading this well is the first key to success. The dough is kept for about 3 hours and then it is rolled out and then cut into circles using a sharp cork. For their final touch they must then be shaped into flowers using the fingers, an art which has to be learned and practiced! After being deep fried they are coated with sugar.

Here in Evanston we made 12 lbs of kulkuls and it took 12 people four hours to complete. Well, truthfully, we didn’t even quite finish. Lalita did the sugaring the next day. It is a great tradition and fun not only to eat but to share the preparation with your loved ones. Here we had our children to help. In Mumbai the MarketPlace and SHARE staff made Kulkuls, too. Most of them are not Christians but it is, as I said, really the making and the bonding that is important. And let me not underestimate the eating too! They are so delicious. My daughter, Shanti, who is currently living in Ecuador, experienced her first time making them on her own because she wanted that taste of home (India and U.S) and holiday.

It makes me feel good to imagine my family and friends all connected by this one warm and homey activity. Whatever your holiday traditions, I hope you will enjoy every minute of them.
-Pushpika Freitas

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