The Timeless Embrace Of Warmth

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WAHEED JEELANI

IN the heart of winters, when the cold winds whisper through the pristine snow-covered valleys of Kashmir, a tradition as old as time itself comes alive, painting the air with the tantalising aroma of spices and grilled meat. Tujj, the beloved Kashmiri barbecue, is not merely a culinary delight; it’s a living emblem of Kashmir’s culture and heritage, a tradition that defies the chill and warms not just the body but the soul.

  • Tujj’s origins: A glimpse into the past

To understand the significance of tujj, we must take a step back in time to a place where history and cuisine intertwine. The origins of tujj can be traced to a time when open fires and grilled meats were a necessity for survival in the harsh winters of Kashmir. It was more than just a meal; it was a lifeline, a source of sustenance that ensured the resilience of people facing the unforgiving cold.

As centuries passed, tujj evolved from a mere necessity into a cherished tradition. It became an integral part of Kashmir’s culinary landscape, transitioning from a means of survival to an art form. The open fires that once offered warmth also offered the tantalising flavours of spice-marinated meat, and thus, a culinary heritage was born.

  • More than just barbecue

Tujj is more than just grilled meat; it’s a culture that binds families, friends, and communities. In Kashmir, tujj isn’t just about satiating hunger; it’s about nurturing bonds, sharing stories, and creating memories. It’s a tradition that brings people together, even as the mercury drops.

The process of preparing tujj is an event in itself. Marinating the meat with a blend of local spices and herbs is a meticulous art, passed down through generations. The aroma of these spices, combined with the wood smoke from the open grill, creates an atmosphere that is not only inviting but also emotionally resonant. Families gather around the grill, watching as the meat slowly roasts to perfection, sharing tales, laughter, and love.

While tujj has earned its place in the heart of Kashmir, it is but one facet of the region’s rich culinary heritage. Kashmiri cuisine, known for its aromatic spices and delectable flavours, has an array of delights waiting to be explored. From fragrant rice dishes like biryani and pulao to the mouthwatering rista and gushtaba, the traditional flavours of Kashmir tell a story as captivating as its snow-capped landscapes. Let’s embark upon a journey through the culinary tapestry of the Valley.

  • The season & its sumptuosness

Winter in Kashmir is a season of contrasts. The land is blanketed in pristine white snow, and the air carries a crisp chill. It is during this season that tujj truly comes into its own. The warmth of the open fire and the sizzling meat juxtaposed against the winter’s cold provide a comforting contrast. The sight of the skewered meat slowly turning over open flames is as mesmerising as the Valley’s snowy landscapes.

As the sun sets behind the snowy peaks, tujj stalls spring to life in Kashmir’s towns and villages. These makeshift grills, manned by skilled artisans, are a testament to the enduring traditions of Kashmir. Families and friends gather around the stalls, huddling for warmth, and enjoying the fiery flavours of tujj. The experience is not just about savouring a meal; it’s about embracing the culture, feeling the heartbeat of Kashmir, and connecting with its soul.

  • A winter wonderland, beyond the Dal

The enchanting aroma of tujj is not limited to the shores of Dal Lake alone. As the winter season sweeps across the entire Kashmir Valley, a myriad of vendors and local stalls spring to life, sharing the warmth and flavours of this beloved tradition. From the vibrant markets of Srinagar to the remote hamlets nestled in the Valley’s lap, tujj emerges as a winter wonderland for the palate, a culinary adventure that takes you on a journey through Kashmir’s diverse landscapes, both geographical and cultural. Let’s traverse the Valley to discover the hidden gems that bring tujj to life outside the iconic Dal Lake.

  • Keeping heritage alive

Tujj, in all its spiced glory, embodies the essence of Kashmir’s heritage. It reflects the resilience of people who have faced harsh winters with grace and warmth. As modernity encroaches, tujj remains a link to the past, a connection to the roots of Kashmir’s culture. It’s a testament to the endurance of tradition, a beacon of hope in the face of a changing world.

Efforts are being made to preserve the legacy of tujj. Cultural initiatives celebrate this tradition, ensuring that the art of marinating and grilling meat is passed down through generations. Tujj is more than just a dish; it’s a cultural treasure that must be protected and celebrated.

Sure enough, when the Valley is draped in a silent snowfall, and the chill in the air is palpable, the fires of tujj continue to burn brightly. They illuminate not just the wintry landscape but also the enduring spirit of a people who have weathered centuries of change. Tujj is more than a seasonal delight; it’s an eternal flame, a symbol of perseverance that has flickered through the pages of Kashmir’s history. While talking about tujj, we’re reminded that traditions like these are not mere echoes of the past; they are living legacies. They persist and thrive in the hearts of those who uphold them. Tujj serves as a connection to our roots, a bridge between generations, and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

In the heart of winter, as the fires of tujj blaze, we are reminded that some flames never die. They endure, casting a warm and welcoming light upon the path that leads us into the future.

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