Aug 1, 2008

The Mistress of Spices..

No, this post is not another rave review of the recent film, nor is a critical analysis of the book by the same name, nor is it about Aishwarya Rai, the lead actor in the film. This post is about every Indian woman who happens to command the kitchen, be it sugar or spices, carrots or coconuts, halwa or their husbands who linger around longingly.....this post is dedicated to that Indian Woman...The Mistress of Spices....

Everybody loves their mother's food. A mom-made sambar is way better than a McDonald's burger or even a Subway sandwich and healthier too...simply because of the spices or the lack of it...more because she knows how you'd like it..
I love my mom's food too...I grew up savoring the various delicacies, be it idlis or mysore paks. Yes, I did call idlis a delicacy. Its after all, mom-made..I can go down listing all my favorite recipes that my mom does, extolling her above all creatures, but I curtail myself, not just because of space constraints, but because, every mom 's recipe becomes the kid's favorite, espcially after the kid sets out to experiment and satiate his quest and curiousity for the multi-cuisine food available outside..and reproachfully retreats to the mostly harmless home food.

My semantic teammate would understand, I was pretty finicky about food and the accessories(side dishes) that went with it, I wanted only the ellu mulagai podi with mom-made idlis, while I preferred (and still prefer) the sambar and the medley of colored chutneys with the idlis at the restaurants..I simply refused to mutate this simple association, guess its been injected into my DNA...slowly..and I cant fathom how or why.

Speaking of restaurants and DNAs, the one place that has been intertwined with my DNA strands as the restaurant, is the preeminent 'Arya Bhavan By Night' at Madurai, the city where I grew up. Those were the days, when my dad used to take me there, we waiting and groping for seats for at least about half an hour, ravenous with hunger, lustfully looking at the food being carried around to serve desirous mouths..And all for that plate of a couple of sambar vadai's and spiced thayir vadai's...Bangalore restaurants offering multi-varied cuisines from different geographies, food courts in malls, fast food centers in airport lounges have done little to detangle that nostalgic DNA strand.

True, spices exist in other continents as well, the Greek cinnamon, Chinese fenugreek, Italian basils and oregano, Mexican jalapeno, Hungarian juniper berries, I've tasted most of these and like a few of them, but I love the Indian perungayam, ginger, elachi, mustard more...Just as how, cooks exist everywhere, but the Indian cook is special...Don't ask me why...I am conditioned to reflect that way...

Am not sure how healthy any of these spices are, I dont want to dwelve in detail into the chemical characertisitics of each. As long as tehre is thayir sadham (with the spiced pickle accessory) to support my digestive system, after a round of spicy restaurant food followed by the usual intestinal washup routine, I would continue to savor the spices...and the Mistress of Spices....

5 comments:

Divya said...

Great post, and I shamelessly admit that after not having left my comments for a lot of your other recent posts,i am doing it here coz i cherish indian food, south indian food and your post kindled my senses. How can one not like the kozhakkatai's (the different flavours), or the sakkarai pongal and ulundhu vadai combination, or even the thiruvadharai kazhi for example, and amma samayal sapdratha vida oru sandhosham irukka mudiyuma? That's why it always hard to please a man's stomach cos he's grown up cherishing his mom's food and thats precisely why the way to his heart is through his stomach. My two cents :)

Ananth said...

While I totally agree with the macrocosmic love for maternal cooking, I must admit that the best "Masal Dosai" I've eaten was made by a Male Pakistani Cook in Dublin.

But Idlis and Thayir Sadam are a different story altogether. Only ammas and pattis can compete in that zone ;-)

Rams said...

:) Nice one! Till date, I maintain my stance that Indian cooking is way far more advanced than any other cuisine in the whole world! Such a variety, taste and greatly health conscious...

Venkat said...

அம்மா கையில் சமையல் சின்னதான போதும் எண்ணிப் பார்க்க இன்பம் இல்லையா...

Lalitha said...

amma samayal is the best in the world not only because of the right blend of spices and other ingredients, it is because of the love with which she prepares it (sounds clichéd or filmi? but that is the agmark truth!!)