Last Christmas, Mandavi Kanchan, the creative head and founder of Bruijn, a luxury nuts, dried fruits and chocolate brand, sent out a Christmas tree made entirely of walnuts as season’s greetings to people close to her. This act sparked an interesting chain of events. A close Christian friend of hers returned the favour by sharing a classic Goan Date Roll made using an heirloom recipe. Kanchan says, “This exchange led to the unearthing of family heritage with deep cultural roots shaping generational history and tradition. Covering food trails and stories became our creative outlet to nurture a healthy discourse on cultural diversity which is much needed in today’s times. Documenting these stories also highlights the magical ability of food to bind and impact people, memories, cultures and history.”
Hence, in celebration of Mother’s Day, her team at Bruijn documented a three-generational story of the women in this Portuguese-Goan family to keep their tradition and heritage alive through food. They recorded her friend Pia Desai cooking the Date Rolls along with her mother Estelle Pereira Desai and her daughters while discussing their food and culture. A presentation documenting the act was made with pictures, stories and quotes and circulated on social media and among Bruijn’s client network.
“We narrated the story of Maria Edveges who cooked up a storm at the famed Ritz hotel which she and her husband Geraldo Pereira owned in Ahmedabad—a city that adopted these Goan natives. As a Christmas tradition, Maria cooked these delicious Date Rolls which we later recreated with Bruijn dates, reliving nostalgia and lending our own product (Indian-farmed Medjool dates) more depth and meaning. It is fascinating to understand how the Portuguese discovered a quintessentially Arabic fruit and globalised it within its colonies while on a microscopic level, how the desert date shaped an entire family’s history,” explains Kanchan.
Describing herself as a third culture kid (she is an Indian who grew up in the Gulf area), Kanchan makes for an apt ambassador for the preservation of family stories as a vivid assemblage of memories, culture and food. This is why she took on the responsibility of showcasing stories of other cultures with due sensitivity.
An upcoming project will revolve around a new selection offered on their menu, the Ranginak, which is an intrinsically Persian sweetmeat. Currently on the lookout for families who identify themselves as Indo-Persian Sikhs with ties to Iran, Kanchan hopes to capture the culinary influences of Iran on this community, while creating a story around the history of most migrant families, as a relevant backdrop.
A love of food goes beyond religion and culture, and this is exactly the principle upon which Bruijn bases its projects. On the occasion of Eid a few months ago, they tied up with the Open Art Project to showcase sweetmeats, adapted from Mughal and Persian cuisines, that is typically served on this special occasion. The selection included recipes for Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates, Haft Mewa (Afghani compote of dry fruits and nuts), Phirni (rice pudding) and Sharbat-e-Zaffran (Middle Eastern cooling drink), making it easy for those interested in recreating a traditional Eid menu. As a venture focused on the culturally binding nature of food, Bruijn has its heart in the right place.
✥ Bruijn tied up with the Open Art Project to showcase traditional recipes served on Eid including Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates, Haft Mewa, Phirni and Sharbat-e-Zaffran.
✥ Mother’s Day project showcasing three generations of Maria Edveges’ Goan family cooking their famous Portuguese Date Rolls using Indian farmed Medjool dates.
✥ Currently in the process of capturing an Indo-Persian Sikh family’s food tradition with respect to the Persian delicacy Ranginak.