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Showing posts from June, 2011

A Century old tale, a dollop of parental love and a recipe for Posset

This occurred sometime in the period between 1910-1920 somewhere in the heartland of Tinneveli district (present day Tirunelveli) in South India.

Chembulingam Nadar was a notorious bandit who had gained a cult status as a robin hood like figure. Driven to a life of crime after  tragically losing his wife in a feudal skirmish, he had made it his mission in life to rob from the rich and give to the poor. He still held his standards of gallantry though, never killing women & children, instead pinning their ears together with a lock through their earlobes. No such guarantees for the menfolk, who were at the mercy of his flintlock revolver. His reputation was such that he would apparently send out an advance notice to the house he intended to loot and sure enough, with clockwork precision, strike at the appointed hour. His turf extended from the Western Ghats all the way to Travancore (Present day Thiruvithamgoor in Kerala). In a sense, his threat was the equivalent of the terroris…

Tea, Tikkis & Tiffanys: A Review of Monica Bhide's 'Modern Spice'

This exercise may remind you of that memorable scene from the  movie 'A time to Kill' but bear with me..
Close your eyes & picture yourself as a child visiting a friends house for tea. Try to think of something that your friends mom served that was so delicious & mouthwatering, something you never had at home. A  taste so unforgettable, you longed for the time you could enjoy that treat again.. just let yourself swim in those memories....' SNAP OUT OF IT'!

Question:  During this self imposed daydream, did it ever matter to you which part of the country your friend was from? Did you care if the food served was Tamil, or Gujrati, or Bengali or....? (applies to readers who grew up in India) All that stood out was that it was unforgettably delicious. At that moment of time, the food being analyzed by your taste buds & nose was for all practical purposes, just Indian.

 Even as we chafe under the (partially true) global perception that Indian food is primarily of…

Cilantro biscuits

Aah summer... one week into the 80 F weather & I'm already complaining about it! Having said that, the heat is simple one of the many many aspects of what characterizes summer. Summer is the time for vacations. Growing up in India, It meant making good on those railway reservations that fathers had made in early march, (I'm NOT getting into the inefficiencies of the Indian Railways in the 1970's..), or if you were one of those privileged, yet solidly middle class kids like me..taking your chances on the 'subject to load' staff passes that Air India generously offered its employees.

For about 4 hours, you were pretty much pampered in luxury, beginning with the 'maharaja' lounges at the airports (accessible to managerial executives with business class privileges) where they'd start the feeding process with finger foods such as cream cheese sandwiches with chutney, tiny samosas & those delicious savory  puff pastries..IF & ONLY IF there were e…

Tambram Comfort food: Vetha kuzhambu & Usli

One of the more memorable dialogs (very euphemistically put) I remember between my parents, growing up went something like this:

Appa: 'I almost always end up being fed 'vetha kuzhambu' & 'chutta appalam' whenever we visit your mother'
(try to imagine the indignation rising within my mom on hearing this)
Amma: What were you thinking?, you keep eating all that garbage at every station that the train halts and ruin your stomach..  And you expect to be fed Payasam??

This happened every year up until my grandmother passed away. Every summer vacation, we'd fly down to Madras (present day Chennai) and board the Tirunelveli express for a day long trip, Appa had this encyclopedic knowledge of the signature food items that were sold in each & every stations, be it  fruits, baby cucumbers, coffee, masala vadai, or Poli (a sweet dal stuffed bread). What made it all the more exciting was that, eating out was one sin short of blasphemy amongst the Tambram commun…