Category Archives: Food

Deepavali vanthaachu!

Much has been written about how Deepavali was observed and celebrated in Tambrahm households a few decades ago. For Mamas and Mamis in their 40’s and above, nostalgia overflows when any discussion happens around this topic. “Antha Kaalathila naanga eppadi Deepavali ellaruma chernthu kondaaduvom theriyumo?” nnu Mamas break into Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi etc, etc on this very popular topic!

Like

– how 1 month before, the entire family will go for buying pudhu thuni for Deepavali

– how Kaadar master will paduthufy by not giving the stitched clothes till the Deepavali eve

– how the Mami at home will systematically start preparing the Deepavali batchanams 3 / 4 days before

– how the Mama and sons will go shopping for Deepavali pattaasu in the last night before Deepavali to get a good bargain

– how the entire family will get up as early as 3’0 clock on Deepavali day

– how there would be a fierce competition between neighbourhood kids on who fired the 1st pattaasu and who fires more pattaasu and whose house has got more pattaasu kuppai!

– on the entire family taking oil bath with hot water from an appliance called “boiler” one by one!

– how the Mama will hand over the new clothes after bath to the kids one by one from Swamy ullu

– on how one avoids batchanam from some Mamis houses and gorge on few others based on reputation of quality and taste from previous years

– On ordering the ‘Ananda Vikatan – Deepavali Malar’ and reading the same till the next DeepavalI! and so on!

So let me dwell into the Deepavali (or is it Diwali these days?) at the house holds of young Tambrahm Mamas and Mamis who are in their 30’s and 40’s empowered and liberated by the IT revolution in the last 2 decades!

Diwali fever these days sets in just about 3 or 4 days before the D-Day! And conversations in households go something like this:

Mami: “Innum 3 / 4 naal thaan irukku, Diwali kku! Shopping ellam panna vendaama??”

Mama: “Independence Day sale la vaangina oru pudhu shirt onnu, rendu irukku. Namma Bala kalyanathukku kadacha veshti irukku, poraatha? Ennoda Diwali shopping aachu!”

Mami: “Ungalakku enna! Pudhu thuni ellam pooti, pooti venchundu iruppel. Anyway I will order today in Myntra. 2 days la vanthurum! Rohitukku mattum oru dress innikki poi vaangidalaam. What about batchanam?”

Mama: “Pona varusham, intha Rajamani caterer kitta order panninathu onnum sariye illa! So this year, let us look at other options. Ramani mama kitta order pannidalaama? Enna Sweet order pannattum?

Mami: “You decide!”

Mama: “Baadusha?”

Mami: “Eppa paaru oru Baadusha! Itha vitta vera sweete kadayaatha? Naanum namma marriage aanathu lenthu paakaren!”

Mama: “Baadusha engaathu aasthana sweetu! Athu illaama Diwaliye kadayaathu engathula!”

Mami: “Lets order Jaangiri and Laddu. Apparam naan aathula sasthirathukku Thengai barfi pannaren!”

Mama: “Intha varushamum Thenga Barfiyaa???”

Mami: “Last 4 / 5 years atha panni oru madiri perfect aayuiduthu! So I will make the same!”

Mama: (Manasukkulla) “I thought you asked me to decide???” “O.K, athu kooda murukku and kaara sev order pannidaren!”

Mami: “No, no, order mixture and ribbon pakoda. Engaathula athu must for Diwali!!”

Mama: (Manasukulla) “Ithu mattum ellaa varshamum o.k vaa??? Intha ulagathula ellaa wivesum book ezhuthinaa, they can all use the same title as Raghuram Rajan’s book – I do What I do!!!”

Mami: “You said something?”

Mama: “Illiye!” (Manasukkulla) “Eppadi thaan manasukkulla sollikarathu kooda intha ladies kku kekaratho???”

And the Diwali day comes.

After getting up earlier than usual at 6.30 AM, the first half an hour or so goes in selecting some new GIF for Diwali greeting and broadcasting among the myriad WhatsApp groups, the Mama is part of.

Mami: “Diwali athuvuma kaalankaarthala oru phonoda okkanthaacha?? Why don’t you wake up Rohit, get him ready and you also take bath?”

Mama: “Itho vanthutten! Elllarum WA la wish pannindu irukka. Nee kulichuttaya?

Mami: “I am going for bath now. Enga antha nethikku vaangindu vantha arappu podi? Engamma specifica sonna atha thalaila pottu kulikka!”

Mama: “Athu Arappu podi illa. Seeyakkai podi!” Arappu podi paathirathukku podarathu!”

Mami: “Yetho oru podi! By the time I come back from bath, just get Rohit ready! Papera vechundu okaandhudaathel!”

Mama: “You first take bath and come! Diwaliye mudinjudum polarukku!”

After some time, the Mama, Mami and the kid all take bath and get ready.

Mami: “Did you taste my Thengai Barfi yesterday? Antha table mela vechuirunthene? You didn’t say anything?”

Mama: “No. Naan taste pannala!”

Mami: “Ungamma panni vechuruntha, intha samayathukku oru 5 piece ulla poyirukkum!”

Mama: “O.K, O.K. Let me taste this.”

Mami: “Wait, wait. Don’t take this full piece. Taste this odanja piece. Nalla shapela vantha piece ellam vachu, I have to take a pic and post it on FB and on WhatsApp. You also post in your friends groups. Your friends should not think that you have got an “Obi” wife! Make sure you mention ‘Home made” o.k??”

For a Mama if there are 2 questions which he would like to avoid at all costs in life, they are

1. “Naan intha dress la eppadi irukken? Do I look fat?”

2. “Eppadi irukku taste? Nanna vanthurukka?”

So usually for both these questions, Mamas give standard replies and you know what they are!!! Mama: “Thenga barfi super!” (Manasukkulla) “Thenga Barfi nna konjam sweet thookala irukkanum.

Ippadi blanda panninaa yaaru saapiduvaa? Engamma pannuvaa paaru. Thenga Barfikku ISI Standard athu thaan!

Mami: “Aanaalum ungamma panra madiri irukaathe???”

Mama: “No, No. This time it is really come out well! O.K, Let us get ready and go to your parents’ house. Anga thaane saapadu?

Mami: We will leave exactly at 12.00. That Myntra fellow said he will deliver the dress at 11.00. Intha meantime, take Rohit down and sasthrathukku oru mathaappu koluthittu vanthudungo!

Mama: “I bought some pattaasu yesterday. Athayum koluthittu varom!”

Mami: “Why did you buy pattaasu and all? Already there is so much pollution in the air. Chumma Sasthrathukku kambi mathaappu mattum porum. Rohit school la kooda stricta cholli irukka. No crackers nnu. Antha vediyellathaiyum, security kitta kuduthudungo!”

Mama: (Manasukkulla) “Security vedicha pollution aagaatha?” And finally as they got ready to leave,

Mami: “Eppadi irukku intha dress? Am I looking fat???”

Mama follows the SOP prescribed for the situation and mouths the right lines!

Mami: Oru photo edungo paakalaam. And send to me. DP update pannanum!

And as they stepped out of the flat, Pakkathu flat Mama:

“Enna Saar, Ganga Snanam ellam aacha? Happy Diwali!” Mama: “Tanker water Snanam thaan aachu!

Happy Deepavali!”

Innikku Menu Enna?

If there is one question which pisses off a normally calm and cool Tambrahm Mami particularly in a weekend, that is “Innikku menu enna?” (Of course I am referring to households where the Mami still holds the fort in the kitchen and not where the kitchen duties have been outsourced). Because she knows that whatever be the answer to that question, it will be met with one standard response from the rest of the family – the Mama and the kids. Which is – Innikum athevaaa??? In Tambrahm households, apart from Narayana, Guruvayurappa the other phrase which kids are most exposed to is Innikkum athevaaa???

Mamikku thaan theriyum how difficult it is to give a satisfactory answer to the Innikku menu enna question. The answer to the question regarding the day’s menu usually comes from the Mami after solving a complex algorithmic problem in her mind which involves many variables like:

 Availability of vegetables at home that day

 Availability of other raw material/provisions,..

 Time available that day (considering it’s a weekend and any outing plan)

 Weather (Hotter the outside temperature, simpler will be the menu)

 Veetula annikku ethaavathu guests undaa?

 Repetitive quotient. (Menu y’day, day before y’day, same day last week,..)

 What Panjangam says for that day – Any Ammavasai, Ekadasi, Pradosham,…

 Any new cooking program seen on TV/Recipe video viewed on Facebook/YouTube/fwd of some new recipe received thro WhatsApp

 Any recent taunts from kids. Usually the conversation will go something like this.

o Kid: “Amma, nethikku Ravi aathukku ponnenliya. Anga Aunty oru side dish kudutha paaru, romba tastyaa irunthuthu.

o Mami: Enna periya side dish panni kudutha?

o Kid: Yetho Saagu appadi yetho per sonna, aunty

o Mami: Dei, Pona vaaram Rava idlikku naan panni kuduthene unakku Saagu??? Nyabagam illiyaa???

 Any recent pollappu from Mama.

o Mama: Intha aathula oru Vatha Kozhambu chaaptu romba naalachu. Naal illa, maasangal aachu!

o Mami: Enna neenga, rendu vaaram minnadi, dabba la kuduthu anupichene? Maranthaacha??

o Mama: Oh, athu Vatha Kozhambaa?? Kaara Kozhambunnu nenaichen. Enga amma Vatha Kuzhambu appadi panna maatta.

(Here imagine Background music of a Steel sombu falling in the floor and noise of thunder in the background)

(Now Mama is pushing his luck and treading dangerous territory with this comment. The scene in the house in the after math of this comment – I leave it to your imagination. Mostly Mama would be depending upon Sangeetha/Saravana Bhavan types for rest of the day)
o Mami: Unga ammavaye samachu poda chollungo!

 And finally mood of the Mami that day when she woke up!!!

So it’s but natural that Mamis get irritated when having decided the menu after solving such a complex equation are faced with the usual Innikkum Atheva comment!!!

Intelligent Mamis get around this by different ways. For Example,

1. By making the Mama cut vegetables on the weekend. Neenga enna narukki tharelo, athukku ethha madiri thaan menu irukkum. So the ball or rather menu is lobbed to Mama’s court.

2. Apply Nanu mama’s 5th law of cooking. Which is ‘When in a dilemma on menu, do what the British taught us – “Divide and Rule”. Ask the family members themselves to suggest the menu. Usually no two person’s choice of menu matches within the family. You can then decide on your own menu based on your above complex algorithm and move on.

I am talking all this in the context of our previous and probably current generation. In the GenNext Tambrahm households empowered and emboldened by the IT revolution the situation is different. On weekends before answering the Innikku Enna Menu question, there is a more fundamental question and issue to address. Which is what to do for food that day!! In the morning while having the morning cuppa of filter coffee, the couple have to decide based on the following choices regarding their food:

1. Outside – Outside: This means go out and have food in a restaurant

2. Outside – Inside: Order food from outside and have at home

3. Inside – Outside: Make food at home and eat out (Picnic/Potluck party,…)

4. Inside – Inside: Make at home and eat at home

While and 1 and 2 are the most common these days, 3rd is getting popular particularly with NRIs and “Expat Returns” and 4th is rare and resorted to if either of the couple or both or the kid is not keeping well!!!

So in the above framework, if the husband asks the question – Innikku menu enna??? the answer from the wife usually is
Time 8 thaane aagarathu. 10 mani aagattum. Saravana Bhavan open pannina odane kettu solren!!
Or
Why are you asking me? Antha “Menus folder” a paathu neeye decide pannikko!!
Or
Whatever you want, tell the bhai. She will make it for you!!!
Or
Adhaan Appa, Amma veettu pakkathile veedu vaangindu okkanthindu irukkele. Appadiye Anga poi chaptukongo! Amma payyanukku ketta thellam panni tharuva!!!
Or
Innikku weekend aache! For a change why don’t you cook??? (Husbandukku endaappa kelviya kettomnu irukkum!!!)
So the next time Innikku Menu Enna question comes to your mind, manasileye vechukongo!!!

The Rasam Conflict!

Akin to many unresolved conflicts in the world if there is one among Tambrahms – it is the Rasam Conflict! I.e if Rasam has to be consumed “theliva” or “elakki / kalakki.” And as far as I know the Tambrahm race is split down in the middle on this one! In every family there are those who prefer Rasam only as “thelivu” and others who want it “elakki”! It is almost difficult to fathom what drives this choice.

In a family with 2 kids – it is not surprising to have one preferring “thelivu” and the other “elakina” rasam. Thereby giving opportunity for some cheeky mamas to quip – “Oh ivan Appa Ramendran mela poyirukkaan. Rendamathavan, Amma Paarukutty mela poyirukaan – Ava madiriye elakki thaan Rasam kudikaraan!! – So it may appear that this Rasam preference is something conveyed through the DNA strands or so I thought until I saw a family where both the parents preferred their ‘Thelivu” Rasam while the kids wanted Rasam the other way.

In those days mamas who wanted their Rasam thelivaa would get hyper if served with nalla elakina Rasam! “Enakku rasam thelivaa thaan venam. Intha Kuppai yoda rasathai kottathe!” By the way what he referred as “kuppai” are actually part of the ingredients that transform hot “puli thanni” into Rasam – Paruppu, karuveppalai, and the works!! “Enna mama, Kuppainnu solrel. Paruppu vikkara velaila???” normally falls in deaf ears.

Ushaaraana mamis (by the way most Tambrahm mamis are) when having guests at home, make it a point to ask each guest their preference 1st. “Rasam ungalukku thelivaa vidava illa elakki vidava”?? So that the dining table doesn’t become a Kurukshetramshortly. The problem comes when the choice alternates between elakki and thelivu from one guest to another. Because once the Rasam is elakufied then you have to give it some time to settle down before serving to the next person who wants it thelivaa!!!

The problem usually is amplified when the Rasam made for lunch in the morning is carried forward to the evening for dinner. Because by that time the qty of Rasam is diminished to the extent that it becomes difficult to separate the Thelivu!!! Of course in which case the time tested formula for dilution and thinning of the Rasam by adding hot water and garnishing with some Rasam powder comes into play!!!
In the households of young couples, this conflict is less I believe. Because if the husband insists on one type of Rasam,.. the answer usually is, “Dei, naan inga Rasam panrathe perisu. Onaku thelivu kekkaratha??? If you want then call up Saravana Bhavan and order the Rasam by your specification and drink!” And the husband usually surrenders with,”Ammadi, nee enna Rasam venna pannu. Panninaa sari!
And then there are those Rasam drinking connoisseurs who say, “Mami, Rasatha thelivaa oru tumblerla kuduthudungo. Apparam elaila nanna kalakki vidungo!”

Our Nanu mama has a very practical solution to address this problem. Which is to take out Thelivu Rasam in a separate paathiram as soon as the Rasam is prepared. Which is his 4th law of cooking. For every bowl of thelivu Rasam, you should have an equal bowl of elakkina Rasam!!! So that you can serve easily as per choice of people!!! The only flip side is if both the Rasams minjufy and have to be carried forward, one has to find space for 2 vessels instead of one inside the fridge!!!

Thottukka Enna?

“Konthey, Dosai vaathu vechurikken, chooda irukku, vandu eduthukko!” – A loving and caring Tambrahm mother’s very usual call to her son at the time of food. The teenage son who is immersed in solving a model question paper (what else) for some entrance exam responds, “Dho vanthutten Amma! Thottukka Enna?” More than the dosai, the “thottukkara item” or the side dish remains the cornerstone of Tambrahm eating and living habits even to this day! Many will go happily hungry rather than eat without the proper side dish. “Pattiniya kedapene thavira, intha dosaiya ketchup kooda ellam thottundu chappida maatten, aamam, cholutten” – familiar line isn’t it??? This is one more aspect of Tambrahm household which has come vamsaa vazhiyaa!!!

In the rigid annals of any Tambrahm family, the “combination” matrix is another knowhow which is passed from one generation to another generation. As per our Nanu Mama’s 3rd law of cooking, “For every item there are many equal and opposite thottukara items in terms of taste.” And there is a matrix with main dishes and side dishes which establishes the hierarchy of preference. So for every main dish you have a “thottukara item” which has been established in terms of the 1st choice, 2nd choice, third choice and then vera ethuvume illaati, what is the last option and so on.

For example, for the most common Idli – the first choice for thottukka is Chutney. And then Saambaar. And when both are not there – you settle for Molagai Podi. If you think it was as simple as that, sorry, Conditions apply. On Sundays there is a mandatory twist. The one and only option for Idli is Chinna Vengaya Saambaar!!! This I am talking of at home on normal days for morning tiffin or night palahaaram. At marriages and functions, it has to be Chutney and Saambaar and Molagai Podi. For children, Idlis with Molagai Podi mixed with Sugar or Idlis with Curd and Sugar (probiotic aache, vayathukku nallathu!!!) As I mentioned, the days when there is no Chutney or Saambaar, hell hath no fury than this. The usually smart ambi that day makes a lot of silly mistakes in Maths. And God save the mama’s colleagues that day at the office. “Ennappa ivalavu carelessa credit/debit entry podare? How can you be so careless I say??” Ore Archanai mazhai thaan! Nowadays, I am told that smart office colleagues call up the mami and ensure that the menu on appraisal days are done with the right combination!

More than the main items, to bring in some variety day in and day out in the thottukara item is one aspect on which our mamis get bugged about. “Ennamma daily Chutneye pannindu irukkiye?” Is a very usual refrain from kids who don’t care about the nuances of a Tomato Chutney Vs Coconut Chutney Vs Green Chutney. And on a Sunday for morning tiffin, if the Idli is not accompanied by Chinna Vengaya Saambaar one can expect the mamas to go ballistic – “Vengaya Saambaar illama oru Idliya?? Ennathu ithu?? Naan Mani’s café la poi chaaptukkaren!” (“Pongolen, enga vena pongo, naana vendangaren. Intha veyyalla samayal panrathukku naan padara kashtam enakku thane theriyum. Ithula Chinna Vengaya Saambaar illena idli erangaatho???” – may be the mami’s answer. But will keep the Tambrahm Mama-Mami repartee for another blog)

One of the important aspects for newlywed couples to reconcile is the “thotukka enna” matrix from both sides. In the first few months, the main reason for fights among the husband and wife is the mismatch and disagreements on the combination. “Engaathula sevaikku mor koottan thaan pannuvom” as per the wife. “Sevaikku mor kootaana?? Sahikaathu. Engamma Chutney thaan pannuva!!” as per the husband. “Engaathula Adai na avial than combination” – Husband. “Engaathula Adaikku vellam thaan thottuppom” – Wife. And like this for all dishes.

Since as a Tambrahm one can be from Tamil Nadu or Kerala or partly here – partly there, the ideal combination is very closely linked to geography of Poranthaam for mamis. This is a classic case of Geography coming in the way of ensuring chemistry between the couple! This disconnect remains a contentious issue in some families for the life time. In fact a known couple ended up in divorce within a few months as the wife due to her lineage forgot to serve Upma with Pazham repeatedly. The husband took to domestic violence every time Upma was made for morning tiffin eventually leading to divorce!

So I feel that during marriage match making, after matching the horoscopes, families should exchange the “thottukka enna matrix” as well to avoid marital tension later. Bharatmatrimony.com and its ilk are well advised to include these very important fields in their data base.
During friendly get-togethers involving Tambrahms during dinner, I have witnessed families engaging in heated discussion about food in general and the combination in food in particular. Which goes something like, “Engathula thayir sadathukku uppilitathukku oorugaai thaan pradaanam.” “Yei, thayir sadathukku pulinji thaan best.” “Ennakku Thayir Sadathukku oru mor molaga iruntha porum.”

As I mentioned earlier, depending upon the history and geography, the combination preferences of Tambrahms keep changing. While there is near unanimity in some combinations, as per me there is one combination for which the jury is still out. That is whether to eat Paal payasam with Pappadum or not. Ungalodu ennavaakum choice???