On a drizzly weekend afternoon, I was at the supermarket and frazzled as I shopped for the week ahead, leapfrogging over numbers, lists, and this-week-only deals, when, without warning, a woman standing behind me dropped a bag of powdered jaggery.

It fell to the floor and burst open, releasing a billowing cloud of brown sugar that fluttered into my hair, my skin, down my throat. I vaguely recall some consternation, but I was already gone, yanked back to my childhood and my grandmother’s cavernous stone kitchen, back to standing on a little wooden stool next to my mother as she melted jaggery in a pot over the stove to make chikki, the peanut candy that is as much a part of my life as everything else that ever shaped me.

Chikki has been compared to peanut brittle in the past, but no brittle in the world could ever compare. While brittle uses plain peanuts and dissolved refined sugar, chikki calls for jaggery—a heady marriage of earthy molasses and spicy golden caramel—boiled down into lava, which is then quickly combined with roasted peanuts. The molten mixture is then rolled into submission between two sheets of greaseproof paper.

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