My grandfather was a consummate storyteller. He would keep me so transfixed with his accounts, that I wouldn't even notice that Amma had surreptitiously fed me a plateful of rice I had vehemently refused, just before the narration began. Achachan's powerful storytelling is also the only reason that
Literally translates as Round Bread or cake. A traditional soft fluffy sweetened fare served either as tea-time snack or breakfast dish especially on Christmas or Easter days. Best with stew or Kerala beef or chicken roast.
In every Christian home in Kerala, on the day before Christmas and Easter, women busy themselves with the prep work for a scrumptious breakfast of palappam and chicken stew for the D day. What better way to kick start the celebrations than with these soft rice appams surrounded by a beautiful 'lace' and a rich and creamy stew. Palappam and stew is also served for tea during special gatherings and as the first course for lunch/dinner. I especially remember the appam and stew served at my father's home on the morning of my cousins' marriages. The stew would be ladled over the appam, and while the 'lace' is supposed to be crisp, I love the way the stew makes it soggy.
Men in our country are in general male chauvinists. When a woman demands that her husband treat her as an equal, a friend, (with some romance thrown in, ofcourse), would she be asking for too much? Well, if the demand is made of a man with an inflated ego (there would be no need to make such a demand of a reasonable man in the first place), it would definitely be asking for the impossible. But I do wonder if women are not to blame to some extend for this social setup. So many mothers expect their daughters to help with the house work, while their sons are allowed to play, watch TV or do school work. In many homes, parents are willing to dole out plenty of money on a boy child's education, while that of a girl child is neglected or not given the same importance. Aval padichu collector agumo (Why spend on her education, she is not about to be a collector), would be the appropriate dialogue at this juncture. (Yes, I do watch a lot of Malayalam movies ;)). Yet again, the same mothers sear
Happy Onam !!! Today is Thiruvonam, the most important day of the carnival of Onam, celebrated by Keralites everywhere. I get to hear the Onam story every year, and I love the beautiful legend. It is believed that a wise, benevolent and judicious king called Mahabali ruled over Kerala. The state witnessed it's golden era during the reign of this great king and he was the beloved of all his subjects. However, the gods felt challenged and a plot was hatched to curtail his growing powers (Talk about politics!!!). Lord Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali while he was performing a yajna and asked for alms. Pleased with the dwarf brahmin's wisdom, Mahabali granted him a wish. The Vamana asked for a simple gift — three paces of land — and the king agreed to it. Vishnu in the guise of Vamana then increased his stature and with the first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second, straddled the netherworld. Realising that Vamana's
People from my state seem to be just about everywhere. Everytime I go on an outing and hear someone chatter away in malayalam, I think of the popular movie dialogue, "Wherever you go, I am there!" If you ever hear of a tea stall on the moon, be assured it belongs to a Mathai or a Kunjacchen! I would say that in every family in Kerala, there is someone working in some far flung region of the country, atleast one NRI (Non Residential Indian), and even people holding foreign citizenship. Why so? The malayali's financial dreams can never be fulfilled by working in his own state, probably because we dream big (very big, mind you). In the past, many of us have moved to the oil rich middle east or the gulf or Persia, as we refer to the arab world, to finance our large homes, numerous cars, posh foreign schools, diamonds and gold for the ladies etc. Being unselfish, we shared our good fortune with friends and relatives by finding (or creating!) job opportunities that they could fill in, and se
Meen Mappas is a mildly spiced fish (usually karimeen or pearl spot) stew from Kerala. It is a dish usually prepared for festivals and is paired with appams and bread rolls. The holiday season is over, but work hardly comes in, and when it does, it's in a very slow trickle. The mind is about to pop
Had it not been for my love of "maa ke haathon ka bana ghana" (mom's cooking), I would have always turned up unannounced at my parent's door step just so that I could yell "Surprise" and see the delight on their faces. Alas, the joy I find in gluttony forces me to share my travel plans well in advance so that they can get a feast ready by the time I am home. But my last trip was not planned, and my parents had to make use of some ordinary ingredients to come up with something that looked and tasted absolutely fabulous. It was the Meen Pollichathu - fish blanketed in spicy pearl onions and grilled to perfection. Banana leaves add to the flavour and aroma of the fish. Infact, many people pack warm rice and curries in banana leaves for journeys. (Once, during a train journey, someone sitting next to me opened such a parcel and the delicious aroma of rice and fish fry wafted around. By the time he finished his meal, I (and the entire bogie, I believe) was hungry and drooling, and my train
In Kerala, it seems the day begins with the sound of the fishmonger's horn going "pong pong" and housewives' calls of "Enna meena?" (what fish?). The malayali's diet comprises mainly of fish and rice, which explains the many fishmongers roaming the streets on bicycles or bikes (followed by all the cats in the area) with loads of fresh sea food that range from expensive seer fish and prawns to the common man's sardines or mathi. After making their purchase, the women settle down to clean the fish in their backyards, and then proceed to the kitchens to make a fiery red fish curry or spicy fish fry. At home, I never used to eat mathi fry. Perhaps I thought it did not taste good because it was the cheapest fish available (and continues to be so). My mother's assurances of its great taste, and my dad's narration of its health benefits did nothing to change what I now consider my rather pigheaded attitude towards mathi. Once I started hostel life during my college years, I realized that my
Onam is a festival to be celebrated at home, home as in Kerala, with the rest of the family. My mom has been telling me in very enthusiastic tones about the girls and boys dressed in traditional kasavu saree, pattu pavada, kasavu mundu and juba, the increased rush and traffic in town as people go about their Onam shopping, the sales and offers everywhere; and I feel a twinge of regret that I am not home. Though I have never laid a pookalam (floral decorations), or participated in singing and dancing, or lighted crackers, or seen any vallam kalli (boat race) as part of Onam celebration, I have never missed an Onasadhya. An OnaSadhya is a lavish feast of 20 to 30 vibhavangal (dishes) served on a banana leaf; tropical vegetables of all kinds, steamed, sautéed or fried, mostly with coconut in some form or the other and curry leaves; parippu (cooked lentils) and ghee, sambar (lentils and vegetables cooked with spices), rasam (tangy tomato based soup), pulisseri (sweet and sour curd based cu