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Q.
Dear Amma,
I'm 10 years old and I have a question for you. Why do people in old pictures never smile?
My grandmother tells me they laughed a lot when she was a child but in every picture I see, even children seem to be frowning all the time.
thanks :-) ,
Neepa

A.
Dear Neepa,,
You’re right, no one seems to be smiling in all the old pictures. I remember we did smile and laugh at other times, just not for photos. I myself have laughed when I was young with my friends. I guess it’s just a matter of how we did things.
There were no instamatics or digital cameras in those days so it was a big deal when the photographer came to the house. I still remember his telling us to sit or stand still and not to move, but I don't remember if he said "smile". Not smiling and sitting stiffly may have been the formal way and taking a picture was a formal occasion at that time. We never had informal pictures.
In those days in India, families were large. All the brothers and their families lived together with the parents, a variety of aunts and uncles and maybe some in-laws. To get everyone ready was a big job and mothers were busy not just dressing themselves but also getting the children dressed up and presentable. Meanwhile the old cameras were very slow so the photographer had his hands full keeping everyone very still. He didn’t have time to make all of us smile at the same time, I guess!
Here is a family picture of mine and you can see for yourself how stern we all look. I am the fourth from the left, on top of the chair, sitting next to my older sister. My husband to be is the thoughtful young man sitting second from the left in his jacket and shorts.
I hope that answers your question.
Love, Amma

 

Q.
Hi Amma,
Your site is very nice. I have a question about how I should explain Indian cooking to Americans.
They keep asking me about "curry" and if I'm cooking curry. I've told them there's no such thing as curry but they don't believe me.
Can you help me explain what the word mean ?
Thanks,
Vinita

A.
Dear Vinita,
Thanks for your kind comment. I'm glad you find my site intersting.
Now, to answer your question - You are right. Curry is a misnomer, coined by the British.
There is a word as curry, which means different things to different people. In the South, where I came from, some people call any vegetable curry. To some it means meat. Many spices are used in Indian cooking, and they differ with various dishes and every household has their own spice mixes. It also differs according to the place they are from. When the British ruled India, the Indians who cooked for them added the spices they knew in their employers' food, in a milder mix for their tastes. This was called curry powder and the name stuck !

 

Q.
Amma,
I don't speak Hindi and don't know how to ask for the spices I want in Indian grocery stores. Do you know where I can find these names ?
thx
Sujata

A.
Dear Sujata,
I know it can be hard if you don't know the names of the things you want to buy. Most Indian grocery stores have the names written in English, though they still might be a Romanized form of the Hindi or Gujarati name of the spice. I've put the Hindi names of the spices in a table
here. You can refer to that, whenever you need to. This should be helpful the new brides who come here to the U.S. and have to do the shopping.
Amma

 

 

 

Id like to use this area to answer your questions on cooking or music or anything youd like to ask me. Please write to me at amma@fromammawithlove.com.