Every child is an explorer. Generations have passed, and generations will come, but the curiosity of a child shall never cease to exist. Be it listening to stories, or being part of them, there is enormous joy in sharing life’s simplicity, and more often than not it is about discussing the forgotten snacks of childhood.
Today, the shopping aisles are full of processed food. Children love to snack on instant noodles, chips, packaged drinks, cream-filled cookies, cupcakes, and wonder, “what did grandpa snack on?” We asked, and here is what we found out.
Read on and let nostalgia take you down memory lane.
The availability and affordability of snacks
Our country was young and the people were poor. Transportation took time. Safe storage was a problem. Restaurants were a luxury. And yet, our grandparents have fond memories of snacks they munched on as young school children.
“We just ate what was available at home. There were fruit trees in the backyard. We would wander, off after school and collect wild berries” says 80 years old Mrs. Purohit, smiling a half smile, her mind strolling again under the thorny shade of ber trees.
“We stole Mangoes from our neighbor's garden. Especially post the flowering season, when the first storm of the season shook the Mangoes to the ground, we would collect them and bury them deep in our rice buckets. Ripening them for later use or dashing a generous sprinkle of black salt to the raw ones. Those were those days” reminisced Abhishek, 40, aIT professional. Today, even after years, not a scene of this memory has been blurred.
Whatever the age difference might be, memories connect us. This takes us to the next segment, where we’ve put a list of beloved childhood snacks as told by our elders.
Bananas were easily available throughout the year and served as a quick hunger fix. Guavas sprinkled with chili & salt came straight from the trees. Papayas and Custard Apples too were popular.
Ber, Jamun, Amla, Raw Mangoes, Tamarind and a multitude of wild Berries foraged from around the village with a group of noisy friends were the highlight of most childhoods. The loot would be divided carefully among the group and finished before one reached home.
Summer brought mangoes to be eaten whole. There were no fancy smoothies or puddings. But mangoes were bought in crates, covered in straw or plucked ripe. Patience and neatness weren’t a virtue among the happy smiles.
Sugarcane had to be peeled with teeth, chewed dry and spit. The only way to eat corn was roasted over the coals from the kitchen fire.
In the boiled snack category, groundnuts and jackfruit seeds topped the list. Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and other wild tubers boiled and eaten with a sprinkling of salt were filling.
Fibrous Palmyra sprouts were boiled to make a chewable snack and were popular along the east coast, especially in Andhra Pradesh. Mangosteen stained the teeth all along the Konkan region on the west coast. In the central region, kids ran to collect Indian Bael after its fall from the tree, to be eaten and mixed with Jaggery.
Pickles were the only way to preserve the seasonal fare. Women gathered together to make pickles to last the whole year. These would be served with rotis or paranthas on demand.
Nutritional benefits that nobody considered back then
Children snacked on locally produced, locally sourced fruits and vegetables. They ate them whole, usually with the skin. Such snacks, though satisfying, were not exactly filling, and children were hungry again by mealtime. Low-fat content combined with the effort required to pluck or gather ensured fitness. It would be highly beneficial to reintroduce today’s children to the old ways of snacking.
There is wisdom in the past. Let’s choose the right ones, for a healthier, happier and brighter tomorrow. Let us create memories that become tomorrow’s nostalgia.