Mother's Day: Meet the D'Souzas

A young Nan D’Souza Wolfe with her mother Jeanne in their Connecticut kitchen,
photo courtesy of the D’Souzas

A Mother’s Day spotlight on one of Tory Daily’s own

Imagine growing up with a lunchtime wish list of a humble Oscar Mayer sandwich — just that, plain white bread and a simple slice of bologna between — but getting lamb biryani, fried chili fish and egg curry instead. It sounds coolly exotic now, but for a grade-school Nan D’Souza Wolfe — The Tory Blog’s Director of Editorial — it was anything but. “At the time, I wanted to be like the other kids,” she wrote in Cherry Bombe. “Now that I have two kids of my own, I wonder at my mother Jeanne’s endless imagination and energy for making what we ate interesting and something I remember vividly.”

In the heartwarming essay, Nan recalled how her mother transformed their small town in Connecticut — the culinary contingent, at least. Jeanne got the market to start stocking coconut milk, pomegranates and coriander spices. She launched International Day, featuring dishes from Ireland to Polynesia, at Nan’s school. She hosted neighborhood barbecues… with tandoori chicken on the grill. She even made it into the local newspaper, sharing her thoughts on saris and her own Indian recipes. Here, we highlight one of our favorites.

Pulao (Herbed Rice with Peas)

2 tablespoons oil
4 whole cloves
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, left whole
5 whole black peppercorns
4 whole cardamom pods, crushed so seeds come out
4 whole bay leaves
2 cups basmati rice
1⁄2 cup peas or chopped mixed vegetables (you can use frozen)
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄4 teaspoon saffron salt to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom and bay leaves. Heat for 1 minute and stir gently a few times so the spices don’t burn. Add rice that has been washed and drained and stir to coat with oil and incorporate the spices. Add boiling water (use the amount recommended on the package of rice), turmeric and saffron. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and cook for the recommended amount of time, covered, until done. Add the peas, fluff the rice to incorporate and recover the pot for a few minutes until the peas are done. Carefully remove the spices before serving. Serves 8.

Note: Pulao can be made in advance. If you do, remove the lid, cover the pot with a double layer of paper towels and replace the lid. It helps to absorb the moisture. You can also cover the pot with foil and keep it warm in the oven.

Read more features from our Mother’s Day Issues, past and present.