Identity shouldn’t be difficult for me, but it is. I am Indian, but growing up in New Delhi, I felt like an outsider. Most Indians are not just Indian, they are a type of Indian. Your primary identity, especially in a big heterogenous city like Delhi, is usually based on the region you’re from (Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, etc.). The thing is, my parents come from very different parts of the country. We speak mostly English at home, the language my parents have in common. This, possibly more than anything else, had a big impact on my life.
My Dad had a taste for rock music. I liked bad American television and had only marginally better taste in Hollywood movies. My sister bellowed Janis Joplin songs in the shower. My Mom liked to dance to disco music.
I didn’t dislike being different. I loved that my parents came from different communities and religions. But I did have a hard time being on the outside. I didn’t speak the language of Bollywood. I didn’t know the latest songs or the steps that went with them. And, looking back, I didn’t realize how jarring my parent’s unusual marriage and my consequent lack of religion was to many of my peers (and their parents).
Moving to America has made my identity both more simple and more complex. Here, I can just be Indian (Americans are certainly not accusing me of being too American). It’s OK that I don’t have another regional identity. But living here has made me a little American. My accent is now too American for India and too Indian for America. So are my food habits.
For the most part, it is pretty easy to live with a multitude of identities in an American city, especially a liberal city like Philadelphia (where I am now). Nearly everyone I meet here has had to grapple with conflicting identities. In a strange way, I am no longer on the outside, despite being very very far from home.
- 2 large Kolhrabi, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2-3 cups greens (kolhrabi greens, collard greens, or a mix of both)
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger, peeled
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 green chili (such as thai chili), chopped (optional)
- 3-4 dreid red chilies (optional)
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 3 tbsp oil, divided
- salt to taste
- To prep kohlrabi: Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the cubed kohlrabi in 2 tbsp oil and salt to taste. Spread on a lined backing sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or till golden on the underside and tender to bite.
- To prep greens: Strip the leaves from the stems and slice into ½ inch slivers. Set aside.
- Make your sauce/masala:
- Blend the onion, ginger and garlic in a blender or food processor till very finely ground and watery. Set this aside in a bowl.
- In the same blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot or wok that can hold at least 3.5 quarts.
- Add the dried red chilies and cumin. Once the cumin is fragrant and spluttering, add carefully the onion mixture (it will splutter and spit, so keep a safe distance). Mix well and let this cook for about 5 minutes or till the mixture starts to brown.
- Add the tomato puree, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric and salt to taste. Mix well, and cook, stirring often, till most of the water has evaporated and the mixture has browned (see picture below for reference).
- Add the kolhrabi and greens, as well as a cup of water. Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered.
- Serve with naan, roti or rice.