For many grocers, spring means the appearance of green garlic, ramps, or curlicue ferns at the farmers’ market. It doesn’t feel like spring to me until it’s Holi.
Known as the festival of colors, spring and love, Holi has long been a popular holiday, a time to welcome and spread joy in a new season. Traditions vary in the Hindu diaspora, but a centerpiece of Holi, which falls on March 28th and 29th of this year, is the play of colors. When there is no global pandemic, people gather on the streets, in parks, and other outdoor areas to play and smear colored powder or water on each other. It is a symbolic act of repairing broken relationships (and creating new ones) or marking the victory of good over evil. And it’s pure, chaotic fun.
Chef Preeti Mistry is known for throwing a pounding Holi party.
As a kid, I was scared of playing Holi (I was shy!), But as an adult, I saw it as an opportunity to get to know my wider community. I’ve helped organize Holi dance shows, food rides, and children’s events, order boatloads of chaat, fill blenders with lassi, and fill hundreds of balloons with colored water. I love playing a role in something that brings people together, which is why I dreamed of going to a Holi event for years: Chef Preeti Mistry’s blowout bash in Oakland, California. Her Holi celebration commemorated the anniversary of her celebrated restaurant Juhu Beach Club with filled Puris, funny drinks and an extensive play of colors. Mistry’s Holi Party was loved by the community. “As a queer company, we basically chose the word love,” jokes Mistry. “Love wins. Love is love. It is ours. This is how we get the festival of love.”
When Mistry closed the restaurant in 2018, I thought I had lost my chance to try the menu specials they brought out every year for the vacation. Then the idea for this story came up. With so many people stuck at home this year, we asked Mistry to create a vibrant, bouncy Holi menu of vegetables that is festive to the touch and can be flexible to feed as many people to celebrate with . “Holi is not suitable for sitting down, eating or eating a buffet – it is more like finger food. And when you make finger food, you want intense flavors that are flavorful, salty, and rich, ”says Mistry. “This is indicative of a really fun party.”
Get all of her Holi recipes here: