Lack of resources, while terrible in itself, does wonderful things to people. Many of you may have heard of William Kamkwamba from Malawi, who, with a little more than tremendous willpower constructed a windmill from scrap. If you haven’t read the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind“, please do yourself a favor and read it. In India, there is a word for this – Jugaad, which loosely means to creatively use resources available to you.
As India has developed, the chasm between the haves and the have-nots has reached scary dimensions. While the folks on the prosperous end of the economic scale have seen a surge in the resources available to them, most people continue to suffer and being resource poor, improvise, or apply Jugaad.
So what does any of this have to do with a food blog? Well, on a recent visit to India, I offered to make pizza for my family. Given that my family lives in a boom-town, fresh basil and mozzarella were available – the basil was superb, the cheese average. Yeast was difficult to procure and ovens were virtually impossible to come by. My sister-in-law had a small toaster oven that I could use but since I had to cook in bulk needed to get a parallel cooking track going. I took the cue from Susmit Sen (the lead guitarist of Indian Ocean and an old friend) who had explained me how he uses Jugaad to make pizzas in India.
I started off by cooking the pizza on a tava (an iron griddle) on low heat on a gas stove, once the cheese had started to melt, I covered the griddle with a steel plate to confine the heat. Voila, I had pizza! It was good, even great compared to the vast majority of options available in India, but it still wasn’t good enough. To fix that I started finishing the pizza in the toaster oven. With the slight browning of cheese, I ended up with pizza as good as any I have made in my resource rich kitchen in Dallas. Amazing what a little Jugaad can do…