I married my Kashmiri husband twenty-five years ago. When our entire family settles down to talk about the ‘old days’, meaning around 45 years ago when my husband and his siblings were children, it is almost as if they refer to a different place.
For one, our daily meals at home revolve around rice, the staple, twice a day. Accompanying it is mutton, usually cooked either with a vegetable or with dal. Yes. In the same dish. It tastes better that way. Hence, tomatoes and mutton, onions and mutton, green peas and mutton, cauliflower and mutton and so on. However, until the 1970s, every household in the Valley tried to cook foods that were less expensive and required more pre-preparation. As a result, the sheep was divided into two parts: the head, all the innards and the trotters. The rest – what most of us think of when we say ‘meat’ – is the other, more expensive part. Up until 40 years ago, there was no shame in admitting to cooking trotters or the hard-to-get-to meat from the head of the sheep or even the thick membrane that encases the entire head of the animal. Today, with prosperity in the cities and towns of Kashmir and more nuclear families with fewer ladies to prepare painstaking dishes, expensive cuts of meat are now the norm.