okay, one of my biggest questions regarding Tam Bram cuisine has been that why has it never been presented well.. I mean, take a look at any Indian cook book, recipes from the southern part of India can be literally counted on ones fingers. Yes, Tam Brams and South Indians in general, are a bit short on advertising themselves compared to their northern counterparts, and when they do, they may come across as snobbish & oh so aware of their cerebral aspects.. ( May I suggest reading Chetan Bhagats latest novel '2 states'. You'll get an idea of what I mean), hence any pride about Tam Bram cuisine is relegated to some cliched, 'politically incorrect' comments about how your run of the mill 'dilliwala' tends to order a 'bucket' of Sambhar ( or 'Sambhur' -- rhymes with Ben-Hur) with an order of idlis on the side.
Anyone watch the Food networks Iron Chef.. Its an intense challenging show where 2 well known chefs have to create 5 dishes in an hours time using ONE mystery ingredient as the central theme. points are awarded for originality, taste and presentation.. Of these three, Tam Bram cuisine would fall flat when it comes to presentation. Not being critical here, but dining in a typical middle class South Indian household isn't ( & never has been ) about laying the table with appropriate table settings and linen and sitting around leisurely as a family catching up on the days events. A generation or two ago, the prevalent formal dining practice (on Festival & feast days) was laying a whole banana leaf, and ladling about 6- 10 different varieties of vegetable/lentil/yogurt based dishes, plus dessert & poppadums ( all in a specific order). Women served the men of the household and once that session was over, gathered around and had their lunch/dinner. On regular days, the menu would usually consist of a lentil or yogurt based gravy (Sambhar/kuzhambu), a clear piquant tamarind/lime based broth, spiced with pepper ( YES: The original MULLIGATAWNY! - Rasam), 2 vegetables prepared in different ways, Rice, Yogurt & pickles. all served in mounds on a plate or leaf & eaten according to a personal preference, either mixed up together or a bite of this & that!, so no opportunity really, of presenting food that would meet with an Iron chefs approval.
I believe in creating opportunities where there are none and so, I plan to start with makeovers. ( you know, those before & after beauty makeovers that Cosmo & Vogue feature in their magazines)
So come back in a couple of days & find out which run of the mill Iyer food goes glam first!
till then, bon appetite!