A traditional slice of home-coming

Almost bigger than Christmas, the festival there is known as Monti-Fest. Families attend special prayers or novenas for nine days before the big day.

Children raid flowers from gardens (often the neighbours who graciously give them permission) and carefully decorate baskets or platters with the brightly coloured bougainvillea, hibiscus, marigold, jasmine carrying them  to the church to strew in front of the statue of Mother Mary. Many churches in Bangalore with a sizeable Mangalorean community have Masses in Konkani followed by the traditional blessing of the new corn and sugarcane. “On the day of the feast itself, after prayers, offerings and a grand procession, the newly-harvested grain is blessed with each family carrying home a few sheaves. Families then sit down to a large vegetarian feast made from the locally grown vegetables. Only odd numbers of dishes are prepared like three, five, seven, 11 or 13.

The recipes are very traditional and no ‘English’ vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas are used,” says Daphne Mendens who gets together with her Konkani prayer group and celebrates St Mary's feast as close to the traditions as possible.

“The new corn called Noven, earlier blessed in the church, is ground in coconut milk and flavoured with jaggery and cardamom. It is then served to the members of the family after prayers beginning with the oldest.This is followed by a lunch that is eaten on banana leaves and  consists of very traditional dishes prepared from locally grown seasonal vegetables,” says Veronica Mathias, who keeps up the festive tradition in her home each year along with friends and family.

The popular ones include karela, brinjal in coconut milk, alsande, alun dhento curry (baji stems in a rich hot sweet coconut gravy), gherkins with cashewnuts and coconut, tender cucumber in a coconut and mustard dressing, ridge gourd, bhindis and black channa. “Ambades or hog plums are used in many of the dishes along with jaggery. The vegetables are accompanied by sannas another form of idlis and brown rice and dal.

Moong dal payasam is generally served for dessert or the Noven is eaten with shevios (idiappams) or sannas,” adds Veronica.

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