So it was the first day at the Ten Thousand Villages Rug Event in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was staying at the manager’s house for the event. I came down ready to leave and saw Val Weaver intently concentrating with an egg on the kitchen counter.
I balanced an egg!
It’s a family tradition, she told me. Every year on the first day of spring her entire family, regardless of where they are, balance an egg and send photos boosting of their skills to the rest of the family.
“Actually, every year my dad always buys a carton of eggs and gives them to the office staff so we can compete!” said Danielle, Val’s youngest daughter and a pro at egg balancing.
I had never heard of this tradition but I was oddly touched by this Weaver family tradition, and the great fun that they have with it every year. So last year I sat down and tried it myself.
Failure. Tried again. Failure (this time it almost rolled off the edge of the counter). Grabbed a different egg and tried again. Failure.
And then, after patient holding, swaying, bargaining and hoping for luck, my egg stood on its own. I grabbed my camera. I called those in my house to come and see. I was proud of my egg. I BALANCED AN EGG!
This egg-balancing trick may not be linked scientifically to the first day of spring but by tradition, it is. It’s a tradition that celebrates spring and new hope for the months to follow. And it’s a tradition that brings families like the Weaver’s together, no matter how many miles separate them.
Welcome Spring with Kachnar Keema
Spring traditions are also an integral part of Pakistani life. Families all across Pakistan celebrate the beginning of spring by making a special dish called Kachnar Keema. The Kachnar tree or the Orchid tree, grows all over the Asian subcontinent. The flowers from this tree vary in color from white with pink veins to almost purple. Kachnar buds are harvested just days before they are about to open, always in spring for a limited period of time.
“I remember one spring my mom cooked some, froze it and brought it all the way from Lahore in her carry-on for me. It was really special because Kachnar is a more tropical plant and doesn’t grow easily here but oh, the taste to me says spring,” said Yousaf.
Recently, Yousaf found out that local Asian grocery stores gets Kachnar in once a year so he is already counting the days until it arrives at the local Nepali grocery store in Lancaster. “All this talk of Kachnar and spring has me hungry!”
All throughout the Bunyaad rug making villages in Punjab, Pakistan, artisans take a break from the loom and collect the Kachnar buds. They know that this delicacy is only available for a limited time so they must stop and collect this seasonal gift from their local trees.
Jamila Rafique lives in the village of Darianwala, Pakistan, and is a retired rug knotter. She and her husband Rafique worked on a bokhara loom in their home for many years. Now, with only four of her nine children still at home, Jamila still goes out every spring to collect the Kachnar buds.
Although Jamila never follows a recipe (nor writes down her own), we know this recipe to come close to her annual Kachnar Keema dish.
- 2 pounds ground beef or mutton (ground chicken could also be used)
- 1 pound kachnar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 3 onions, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (Jamila would normally pound fresh ginger and garlic into a paste in her wooden mortar and pestle but pre-made pastes can be purchased in the grocery store)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Dash of salt
Wash the kachnar. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent. Add ginger garlic paste and cook for 45 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and ground meat. Cook on medium high for a few minutes or until the meat is almost done. Add red chili, salt, cumin, coriander and tumeric. Add 1 cup water and cover. Simmer mixture for roughly 30-40 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked. Remove the lid and cook on high heat for another 5-10 minutes. Add kachnar and yogurt. Cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with warm naan, basmati rice or roti.
This spring may you find the tradition that fits you to celebrate the new life of spring. The Bunyaad artisans are already busy watching color burst around them as new flowers emerge around their village homes. We know that we will see signs of spring in the rugs in the many months to come.