Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most festive times for Hindus in and around Flushing. During the nine-day birthday party for the elephant-headed god, Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam (aka the Ganesh Temple) on Bowne Street is a hive of activity. Ganesh Chaturthi always concludes with the Grand Ratha Yatrã, a parade through the streets of Flushing.
This year the parade was held on Sunday, Sept. 20, but I wasn’t able to make it. I did however have the good fortune to hang out with James Boo of 1 Minute Meal Films a few days before while he filmed modaka archana, the making and offering of the sweet modaka. The coconut-filled treat is renowned as Ganesh’s favorite food, so much that one of his many names is modakapriya.
“A human being will connect with a deity if the deity has the same likes and dislikes,” Trustee Mohan Ramaswamy of the Hindu Temple Society of North America told Boo. “So Ganesha loves food. He’s got a big belly, modaka being [just] one of his favorites.”
While James filmed the Temple Canteen cook staff preparing modaka and a gigantic laddoo—a chickpea flour based sweet studded with nuts—I asked the Spanish-speaking porters about their favorite foods from the Canteen. “Todo,” said one. “Mi gusta upma,” responded his female counterpart. I, too count myself a fan of the cous cous like dish studded with spices, veggies, and nuts.
If you’re trying to get your hands on some modaka you’ll have to wait until next year. Laddoo as well as all the Canteen’s other delicious vegetarian food, including several types of dosa, are available year-round, just like Ganesh himself.