Photo by Kayla Padilla
Fall is one of the most important times for a Hindu. Cultural festivals come at you at least once a week, and you have to be extroverted enough to keep up.
Every year, my mom has hosted a Diwali party at our home. She spends days prepping, cleaning, buying flowers and ingredients and preparing a vast menu while still being ready well before guests arrive, with a new saree and jewelry and a big smile on her face. It seems one of the roles of an Indian woman is to be a perfect host, no matter how exhausted you are. All these years, I took everything she’s done for granted, just because of how effortless she appeared while hosting. It only took me setting out to host my own Diwali dinner party to realize how complicated it really is.
I decided to set my dinner on Friday, November 1st. Unfortunately, it was only after I invited all my friends that I forgot I had to work for the El Mundo Zurdo Conference that day. Preparing ahead of time, I tried to remember how my mom would set up for these parties. The planning process required me stopping at multiple stores to get the supplies I needed.
I hit up the dollar store, where I could buy many fancy looking utensils and decorations for super cheap. I went to the Indian grocery store, my second home, to make sure I was stocked on spices, desserts and diyas, or Indian candles, mostly used during Diwali. H-E-B was where I went for all my groceries, and as I walked through the many aisles, a menu started forming in my head.
Although a traditionally vegetarian holiday, Diwali has quickly become a fun commercialized holiday, similar to how we celebrate Christmas. Meat and alcohol, usually frowned upon any other Hindu holidays, got a free pass on Diwali. Therefore, I had no qualms walking out the liquor store with a bottle of white rum. On the menu? Channa Masala, Baingan Bharta (Indian mashed eggplants), raita, Chicken Biryani and a seasoned white rice. Not even half of what my mom would have prepared for five times the amount of people I had invited.
With Thursday being Halloween and Friday being the conference, I knew I had to compartmentalize. I had my vegetarian dishes prepared on Wednesday and had boxes of chopped onions and chilies and a ginger-garlic paste waiting in the fridge for me to come back from work on Friday and start on my rices.
It was only then that the pressure started getting to me. My friends Kayla and Soleil came early to help me set up, clean, help prepare dishes and also listen to me freak out about how my rice wouldn’t cook for about two hours. For tolerating all the smoke in my kitchen, my constant whining and being cold in my heater-less apartment, I have them to thank. It was after that night, that I had an even greater respect for my mother. How she was able to effortlessly prepare for these events multiple times a year is beyond me.
Diwali is about coming together with the people you love and celebrating the Festival of Lights. It’s the celebration of good overcoming evil and having a literal metaphor for light triumphing over evil. We dress up, light firecrackers, hang out with our family and bond over food. Sometimes it also means watching Mayor Ron Nirenberg dance to Bollywood songs in front of the Tower of the Americas. Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to go home to my family this Diwali, it felt amazing to host this stressful event for my Trinity family, and I wouldn’t change that.
Although I wasn’t able to invite everyone to celebrate Diwali with me this year, anyone can celebrate it in the comfort of their own home. Here are some of my personal favorite and very easy Diwali recipes, for everyone else to try at home!
CHOCOLATE PEDAS (INDIAN FUDGE), PUNCH AND SEASONED RICE
Yields 12 pedas
1.5 cups full-fat milk powder
1 can (14 oz) condensed milk
5 cardamom pods
2 tbsp butter/ghee
1 pinch nutmeg powder
2 pieces of an Abuelita hot chocolate bar
A handful of raisin pieces
1. Mix milk powder and condensed milk in a bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until a thick consistency.
2. Grind cardamom pods until an almost powder and mix in with nutmeg powder.
3. Microwave raisins with 1 tsp of butter until plump.
4. Pour into a baking sheet with parchment paper and wait for it to cool down to room temperature.
5. Roll into balls and then flatten into the palm of your hand.
6. Make a thumbprint in the middle and put in a couple of raisins.
7. Put in the fridge and cool and serve.
Make it with chocolate: After you’re done microwaving, break up the chocolate into smaller pieces and stir in.
Optional: If you have the means, soak 2–3 strands of saffron in 2 tbsp of warmed milk for a few minutes. Pour the liquid into your mixture at the beginning.
1. Bring sugar, water, and rose syrup to a boil.
2. Transfer to a container and cool in the refrigerator.
½ bottle white rum
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 tbsp rose syrup (rooh afza)
2 liter ginger ale
1 liter sparkling lemonade
Grapefruit, lime slices and mint (for garnish)
1. Mix ice, rum and ½ cup of simple syrup.
2. Stir in the sodas.
3. Top with garnishes and serve.
Stovetop Seasoned White Rice (serves 8
2 cups Sona Masoori Rice (or any other
medium grain white rice)
2 cups water
¼ tbsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp rose water
¼ tsp turmeric
Optional: 1 tbsp butter/ghee
1. Rinse and drain the rice until the water runs clear.
2. Heat your water on a saucepan and let it come to a boil.
3. Add your rice and salt and reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Once the water has evaporated, add your onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and butter.
5. Delicately fold the spices into the rice.
6. In a small bowl, mix rose water and turmeric.
7. Top the rice with this mixture, dropping evenly all around and serve.