Tag Archives: Food Menu

An Idli a Day!

30th March, we are told is being celebrated as “World Idli Day”! Meaning, for the world, 30th March is Idli Day! For South Indians in general and Tambrahms in particular though, every day is Idli Day you see! As Nanu mama said, “Ithellam marketing gimmick! Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, Mother’s Day madiri! Namakku every day is Idli Day!” And he is probably right. “The” Idli is intertwined so much in the life and IDentity of a Tambrahm!

 A day in the life of a Tambrahm is not complete without a brush with Idli! Usually the day starts with Idli as the breakfast.  Not only that, apart from having Idli for breakfast, I know of households who have again slight variants of the Idli for evening along with Kaapi and then for dinner as palahaaaram.

“Idli steamed o illiyo with no much oil,… Athanaala romba safe!” is the usual refrain which we can hear from Tambrahms who pour scorn on North Indians having oily paranthas for breakfast. “Eppadi thaan kaalan kaarthala ippadi oily itemsaa thingaraalo?? Namakku Idli thaan sari. Vayathukku onnum pannaathu”!

While Idli itself is a plain simple item made of rice, what makes it special is, what it is consumed with.  Tambrahm mamas who usually fuss around too much about food and the lack of variety every day, are more charitable as far as Idli is concerned. As long as Idli is served with different items to go with.

At a basic level, the day when the mami is in no mood to entertain the mama and kids so much, Idli is made and will be eaten with the already made Molaga Podi mixed with nalla ennai aka Gingelli oil! And the nalla ennai is poured over the Idli as well to taste!

At a next level, Idli is taken with Chutney. Here the options are many, starting with white Coconut Chutney, Tomato/Onion Chutney, Green Chutney,..,…

On a particular day, if the mami decides to finish the cooking in the morning early, then one can have the baakiyam of having Idli for breakfast with Sambhar which can be then used for lunch as well with rice!  Idli with Chutney “and” Sambhar is usually the combination for Naallum, Kizhamaiyum!

At many Tambrahm households I know of, Sundays are usually Idli with Chinna vengaaya Sambhar.  I have heard that mamas feel like going to sorgam and coming back when they get an opportunity to eat hot Idlis with hot Chinna vengaaya Sambhar served with dollops of ghee.

Now, here’s the thing as a matter of critical detail. If you eat the Idli dipped in Sambhar served separately in a kinnam, it is Idli Sambhar. But, if you take a bowl of Sambhar and soak the Idli in it and eat, it becomes Sambhar Idli!  Usually left over Idlis of the morning along with left over Sambhar of afternoon – becomes tasty Sambhar Idlis for evening tiffin!

When you see somebody pouring Sambhar over Idli, one gets a doubt if Idlikku thottukka Sambhar aa illa Sambharukku thotukka Idliyaannu!!  And one cannot miss sharp mamas’ quips like, “Paiyyan sambharla paatthiya kattaratha paatha, engineera thaan varuvaannu thonrathu!”

Before the IRCTC era, train journeys or road trips (read as temple visits) were never complete with Idlis being part and parcel of the trips literally, I mean. A separate koodai accompanied these trips with eco-friendly disposable packets of Idlis. And here’s the twist. To save time and the mess of eating Idlis with Chutneys or Sambhar (which may get spoiled in the heat) while on travel, Idlis are usually packed with Molaga podi and ennai already applied on them. So white Idlis become slightly Orangish in colour with liberal dose of nalla ennai. “Konjam ennaiya dhaaralama vittukko, nenja pidikkaama irukanum!” This Idli with pre-mixed Molaga podi becomes “Podi Idli”! Have you ever tried having a sip of hot, filter coffee right after eating this Podi Idli, with the taste of Idli mixed with the Molaga podi still lingering on the tongue?? If not, please try that tomorrow!

“Idli, malli poo madiri irukku!” can be the ultimate compliment which is when the Idli is soft, pure white in colour and has a nice aroma around it!” However ask any mami and she would say, “Aamaam, kudikarathu ennamo Aquaguard thanni. Aana Idli mattum  malli poo madiri irukanum!!!”

Coming to Tambrahm obsession with the Idli, though we eat Idlis probably 365 days of an year at home, when we go out to eat at restaurants,…, the 1st choice of most mamas is most likely to be “Oru plate Idli Sambhar”!

In Tambrahm households, it is also common for parents to serve Idlis with Thayir and Chakkarai mixed for kids. “Thayir vayathukku nallathu. Eriyaama irukkum!” Our elders were abreast of all this probiotic stuff even then! But what usually starts as a childhood habit continues even after growing up.

Even Doctor mamas have a special affinity for Idlis. Usually, when we used to go to our neighbourhood family doctor for common ailments like fever, stomach upset,..,… the doctor usually advised, “Usual pre-cautions and “Idli madiri safe food da saapadalaam”!

In order to cater to the daily intake of Idlis at home those days, mamis usually arachufied maavu every alternate day even during the pre-grinder days!  In grinder days, more than the effort involved in aruchufying, the effort in cleaning up the grinder after the act was more taxing! Ithukku okkaandhundu araikarathe thevala! But today for the young generation, ready-made, Off the shelf maavu has come as a god sent relief. Only thing is, with the ready-made maavu one cannot be cock sure of the output!  Leading to jibes like this:

Mami:  “Innikku enna aachunnu theriyala! Konjam Idli flataa vanthuduthu!”

Guest Mama: “Idli saaptu naanga flataa aagaama iruntha sari!”

So, with the Idli even small travesties are not tolerated, you see!

The other bigger travesty of the Idli, is the invention of different varieties of Idlis in the name of fast food! From Idli Manchurian to Chinese Idli to Masala Idli to Hara bara Idli, …,… have all mushroomed much to the dismay of the Idli connoisseurs! For them, Idli is only one. Which is simple, steamed and safe! So for them, it’s not “Idli Day” but at least “an Idli a day”!!!

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!!!