First a disclaimer. This post may not resonate so well with the current generation or those who were born and brought up in the Post liberalisation India (post 1991). But those in the pre-lib era can relate well to this. Or so I hope.
It is a known fact that for Tambrahms, food is an important ingredient of life. But that doesn’t mean that we as Tambrahms are fine and excited about all types of food. We are biased towards namma type chaapaadu for sure. Any day, we will prefer our Saambaar, Molagoottal, Idli, Dosai,.. over any other exotic regional or international menu. If one does a microscopic research of our DNA strands, mostly instead of X chromosomes and Y chromosomes, there will be I chromosomes or D Chromosomes and so on I think, where I stands for Idli and D for Dosai respectively!
At home, 7 days of the week, 52 weeks of the year or in short every day, we are fine with eating our type of food. For breakfast, evening tiffin and night palahaaram we are O.K. with having Idli and Dosai alternatively. What is important though, (as I outlined in one of my earlier posts –Thottukka Enna? ) is we are more concerned about what goes with it. As long as there is variety in thottukarathu, nambalukku double O.K.!
While this characteristic can be classified as normal (i.e. eating their own type food while at home) even for non Tambrahms, what is special for Tambrahms is that we prefer eating our type even when we go out!
Unlike these days where eating out is very common, those days when we were growing up, eating out was very rare! At Tambrahm households eating out was when the mami at home was veliyila that too when mama couldn’t cook for some reason (usually as we know, most Tambrahm mamas are adept at cooking and therefore walk the talk). Even here, mostly it is “one dozen idly or few dosais parcel” instead of eating in the restaurant! Another opportunity to eat out was when we were on some temple visit like – Kumbakonam, Guruvayur and so on! In those places anyway you wouldn’t get anything apart from Idli, Dosai and meals! If not for these opportunities, then it will be when we were travelling to our “native place” in Kerala during summer vacation or for some aathu visesham usually in trains! As the train reached Olavakot junction (these days Palakkad junction), it was time for morning coffee and breakfast which again will be usually Idli and probably Vadai. “Dosai chooda illaatti nenja pidikkum, Idliye adikalaam! would be the elder’s advice! Some of the co-passengers can be seen buying Vellaappam which usually entices you as kids as well. “Yei,… antha vellaappathila Kallu (alcohol) pottaakkum ferment pannuva, Athellam vendaam. Nee intha Idli thinna porayaa illaya?” used to be the usual refrain!
These days of course the opportunities for eating out are far too many. Any day, any time we eat out! But even today, Tambrahms are very comfortable eating our type of food by and large!
When we go out to eat say during weekends, while this generation kids break their heads to order what they want, for us it just takes a few seconds. Because our order will invariably be – First oru plate Idli Sambar, pinnaala Rava Dosai (or some variant of the same) and then Filter coffee!
Even in marriages and functions where it is common to have a buffet with all varieties of food like Chinese, Chaat counter, Punjabi items and so on, in a Tambrahm visesham, most Tambrahms can be seen crowding the “Dosa counter” and later filling up the plate with Thayir saadam, pickle and mor molaga if available. You can often hear lines like “Namakku intha chaattum bootum ellam sari pattu varaathu. Namma intha dosaiya thingarom! Thayirum Chaadam, ooruga irukko illiyo? Athu porum!”
We all know that these days, mamas and mamis travel abroad frequently and widely. Even when in Bay area in the weekend it will be like – “Namma intha Tirupati Bheemas intha vaaram try pannalaam. Pona vaaram Saravana Bhavan try panniyache!” and for what – eating Idli, Dosai!
Even within India when we go on holidays say to North India, after one day of Naan, Roti, Aloo gobi,.. our stomachs start craving for South Indian food! “Inga pakathula engayavathu Uduppi restaurant ethavathu irukka paaru” will be the refrain, even if food is part of the package! And if that’s not to be found, the conversation on return will go like this:
You: “Enna Mama, Mussorie holiday ellam eppidi irunthathu?”
Mama: “It was o.k. Oru South Indian hotelum illai! 4 naalaiku eppadi intha Naan, roti, paneer chaaptundu kazhikarathu?”
And I know of those who take up foreign vacations only after confirming presence of Saravana Bhavan or Woodlands in the city on the internet!
Mama: “Namakku intha roti, masalaave othukaathu. Ithula Breadayum, cheesaiyum nambi eppidi holidaykku porathu. Malaysiakku poi thindaadinathu ennakku thaane theriyum!”
You: “Malaysia la thamizhaa naraya irukkaale? Namma food kadaikalaya?”
Mama: “Nee vere! Ore Non Veg. Thedi thedi oru Annalakshmi hotela kandu pidichappo thaan Aaswasam vanthuthu!”
If it’s a remote city in China or Japan,.. where Google Guru doesn’t help with a South Indian restaurant, you can be sure that a Tambrahm will equip himself or herself with packets of MTR Upma mix lenthu Puliyodarai mix and what not! Though, here I must add that this is a major compromise because while at home he will not touch a MTR readymade mix with a barge pole! As per our Nanu mama’s 6th law of cooking, “Vayithu samaachaarathula, rigidda irukapadathu. For every genuine chaapadu item, there is a close equivalent item in terms of taste!”
For Tambrahms who are tech friendly these days, even on Apps like Swiggy,.. the most searched food type will be “South Indian food” and most ordered will “Idli. Dosai,…”
For Tambrahm mothers, feeding their sons/daughters isn’t a big problem. Because “Avanukku oru Dosaiya nanna ennai ya vittu murugala vaathu kuduthuttaana, avan baatukku chapatuduvaan!”
“Avana? – Avan Veetula Raman, Veliyile Krishnan” is a popular line used to explain the character of a man. But as far as eating habits are concerned, for Tambrahms it is always “Veetileyum Idli/Dosai, Veliyileyum Idli/Dosai!”