For years now I have been battling my dad’s “Oh she makes good boiled water” and other’s “you cook? Oh you mean maggi” comments. Sometimes with smart repartee and sometimes with long essays on stereotyping women. But today I have honestly started to believe that I absolutely must learn cooking and here’s why! And before I start let me also tell you that by cooking I don’t mean the occasional upma or the quickfire tomato rasam.
Belonging to a Tambrahm iyengar family filled with foodies and a kickass chef for a mom, I am quite well-rounded! A three course lunch of thenga thogayal, manathangaali vatha kozhambu & arachivita thakkali rasam saadham with cabbage karamadhu and boiled beetroot topped with thaalichi vitta kadugu for sides is a normal affair, especially if all of us are home for lunch. Sometimes I even extend it to a four course meal, by having thayir saadham with amma’s avakka that has vendhayam konjam thookala. And if the vathal maami had dropped in the previous week, then the javarisi vethal and poo vethal are the fried surprises for the day! So here’s my Reason 1: Even as I write this, I am salivating non-stop like a drooling 2-year old.
Let us next touch upon the kalandha saadhams. There is awesomesness of a jugaad puliodharai that my mum makes. It is a mix of the MTR’s puliodharai mix (the last time she told me she’s discovered a new mix brand. I’ve forgotten the name) with her own concoctions to make it taste like aathu thalligai and avoid the commercial taste, while matching the quantity with effortless ease. Now this is just plain genius that defies cooking proportions and pre-set recipes, like you are feeding gadodgajhan and the only objective is to feed. And yet the taste never falters, not once in these 25 years that I’ve had her puliodharai. Kalandha saadhams are also the reason I rejoice and welcome Kaanum Pongal – a festival where usually my extended family joins in and a super-heavy pot luck lunch follows. And it’s not just about a simple kalandha saadham, the sides make a huge difference. Like for example, the tholiyoda urulakezganghu with thenga saadham is the epic win of all kalandha saadham-karamadhu combos, atleast for me. Reason 2: Kalandha saadhams for the win! and when leftover, a kattori-full makes for the best evening or midnight munch.
With all due respect to the dead, I look forward to davasams (the annual shraddh) for the davasa saapaadu. Though this is not homemade, and is usually prepared by a bhattar, my family promptly plays the role of a food critic comparing the year’s davasa saapadu with the previous year’s and the year before’s. It’s like the food oscars at my place. Nevertheless nothing can match the joy of leaving the plantain leaf fully empty after gulping down every peck of rice and the variety of thick liquids. Kasapu is the dominant flavour with paavakka karamadhu, podi-pota vazhakka and sepankezhanghu. But this is beautifully balanced by the mangaa pachadi and paruppu payasam. And the best part is all this can also be homemade provided you put in the hours and effort. But the actual Reason 3: Guaranteed unda mayakkam.
So far I have spoken only about the main course, what about desserts? Let me introduce you to the exclusive akkaravadichal. Oh my god. This is the Rajnikanth of iyengar desserts. I really don’t know when or how it will appear, but when it does I slurp it all down. Thick and heavy with paruppu that you can chew on while you gulp down the rest of the payasam. The sudden vellam taste with the aromas of lavangam and elakkaai. Reason 4: I repeat, it’s the Rajnikanth of iyengar desserts.
And about the why I want to learn it now bit, as a soon-to-be-bride, I want to inherit amma’s kaipakkuvam as soon as possible, because no one’s got it like amma!