Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ambrosia

          “There is no love sincere than the love of food”.


Dreams in which you lie in bed and literally drool! It must have happened to most. It often happens to me.

I’m at a sumptuous dinner or party with food that is the envy of even the Romans and all their Gods. Sometimes it will be the typical wedding food in a Keralite Hindu wedding, sometimes the aromatic Byriani and pulsating mutton curry of the Muslim folks amply proportioned with ghee and at times it will also be the grandeur of the food at a Christian wedding. I would be in anxious hurry and impatience to grab the food and stuff it down, sometimes I will be trying to stretch to grab it even, but alas I cannot move my hand or it superficially perceives the food then I wake up with a forlorn jolt, drooling, literally. The realization dawns that it was not only a dream but a nightmarish end to feel now that I missed the whole tempting array of cuisine.
Then I slip back into the abyss of slumber, with stupor of the dog that was shown the fascinating piece of bone and taken away with cruel audacity.

Food, the one that tickles, and pleasures the taste buds and the mind, that gives the heart its ever eluding content has been my fascination.

I sit back to recollect  the  times  I have had food that stays in the heart and long each day that I be consigned to a remote island paradise where I and just me alone will enjoy all that every day , is not  ephemeral and it never ends,  . A life in Shangri-La!

The best of the country side food of Kerala devoured in the thatched  tenement straddling the green paddy fields that tango in the breeze that is incessant, was like paradise brought down to me. I had that many times, but one, a particular time and place was heavenly simple and plain. Spirit that even Gods will not resist (the Kerala toddy) complimented by well cooked tapioca in coconut and tagged with the wonderfully dangerous looking Valla (a kind of fish found in Kerala back waters and rivulets) curry. Supplemented with roasted duck, frog legs, roasted pork garnished with coconut slices and the Entreat the appam with chicken curry in fried coconut gray. Beef ollathiathu (roasted) being an added indulgence. I wished after, and knew I would not mind, if my heart ceased to throb  it would be with content.

Once I went to a wedding reception in Chennai. It was a Muslim wedding. The food served was of only a few dishes unlike the Christian and Hindu weddings in Kerala that never ends and stays on course after course. The Byriani with chunks of juicy mutton garnished with ghee, roasted chicken sprinkled with sliced onions and tomatoes sautéed with amazing composition of masala, a tremendously subjugating curry of brinjal, and then came the dessert carrot halwa in ghee. I still can at times smell that food though ten and plus years have elapsed since.

Once I and C went for a nonsense called Yoga class, which was a discourse with gimmicks by a widely known man in ocher robes. It was a three day event in Chennai, and what kept us glued there was the lunch they served which was pure vegetarian. I do not recall the dishes but exquisite were they, I’m yet to taste any that will match let alone rival that.

Steak! Versions of that are many. Often we are forced to agree that the chunk of meat grilled and peppered can also be termed “steak”. But the best and the unrivalled buffalo steak was served to me and C while we were in Jackson. There can never be any steak that can be juicy and enhancing as that. It was the feeling, the fear that the hotel staff that waited on us would see us gluttonous Indians that we desisted from asking for a repeat of the dish.

Shewarma, the misleading regional versions were attractive, until I ate the beef shewarma at a Turkish joint  in Johannesburg. It was rolled in bread as big as a huge Nan. Rolled and stuffed without a wee bit space with meat, mayonnaise, grated cabbage, and mustard sauce with other condiments.  I kept licking my fingers and sucking my thump till the end of the day.

There is a very mundane, but nostalgic variety among the cuisine I long for each day. The India Coffee Houses are quite famous for their coffee, maslaa dosa and brisk service, besides other dishes. The masala dosa from the ICH as the outlets are called have the same taste and aroma from Srinagar to KanyaKumari.  A plate of MD as the masala dosa’s are called, complimented with Mutton -Omelet and signing off with aromatic coffee will eclipse any depression and augment rejuvenation. No exaggeration. Each morning I wish for the MD and MO.

But finally I reach to the food that most of us in the family, I’m sure, miss now. The local Kerala cuisine that my mother’s sister used to cook. It is true that no food can rival the ones mothers’ cook. But when traded with her sister’s gifted hands, the dishes my mother cooks come second only.  The fish fry, the mackerel curry in grounded coconut and coriander powder with the tangy –sour fruit , kodam pulli( (seen only in Kerala), the simple beans thoran , the avial , the olan(  sliced potato in  coconut milk with peas and green chilly), the theeyal ( drum stick and yam slices cooked in fried coconut and coriander gravy),the sambar , the prawn theeyal and prawn fry roasted with liberal dose of onion slices, and what else! I have not come across yet another array of food ,prepared ,which aids with amazing content - the taste buds and leaves the soul in peace.
 It was akin to ambrosia if not one!

12 comments:

NRIGirl said...

The yummiest post ever! Had me drooling from the beginning to the end! :)

meeratales said...

I absolutely loved this post! You had my mouth watering with the lovely descriptions! I am married to a Malayalee and whenever we go to Kerala it is a gastronomic delight. The Kerala food is probably the only one which has spicies that you can experience without having your tongue burnt out with the chillies! I saw a Malayalam film recently " Salt and Pepper" ! It is about a foodie ...!! Loved it! I am not very much of a foodie though my husband and daughter are. YOu should try Bengali food. It is similar to Malayalee food in terms of the preponderence of fish and rice but different !

A New Beginning said...

yum yum!!!I just love south Indian food..it's simply amazing!

....Petty Witter said...

Now a non-meat eater, I love the smell of bacon.

Another great post, thanks.

Daniel said...

I must find a good South Indian restaurant in Kolkata.. Yummy post :-)

Monalisa said...

Could get any keralite sail a ship in his/her mouth. And i concede there's a particular taste for every keralite expatriate for his native food. I used to be one, and now when I settled in India and post our food photos on fb, my friends still out there would be watering their mouths. Result, it grew to be my favorite time pass :-P

adithyasaravana said...

that left me hungry.. greedy.. drooling.. Planning..asking( which is the best restaurant in salem for kerala food?)
Our cook has taken leave.. I can't wait till I come back from college for a sumptuous dinner..
sure.. indulgence in food doesn't make you guilty..except when you watch weight and waist..

anilkurup said...

@ NRIGirl,

Ha , thank you.

@ Meeratales

Welcome.
Love for good food who cannot abide by that fascination?
But again it is the matter of individual chemistry , one may not like what the other devour.

I have tried some Bengali stuff- fish curry being foremost.


@ A New Beginning
It is amazing that the country has as many languages , dialects and gastronomical wonders and varieties.


@ Petty Witter

Bacon, You send me dizzy and sick and longing.
I remember the breakfast once I had in London the typical mashed potato, eggs, bacon, sausage paraphernalia. Oh me I relished it much wanted to extend my stay to have another morning!

@ Daniel,

You sure will find one. Especially the Mallu run. They say even on the Moon there is one such.



@ Monalisa

I think we must also agree that taste for food differs from people. Fortunately for me I never disliked food of any kind except the "Sushi" and the Japanese beer they served with it. I could stand neither.
I just mentioned some of the treats I wish I could have till the day of judgement.

Good to know your fascination.


@ Adityasaravanan,

I guess you will have to find that out in Salem. But the best is travel on a short vacation, ( now is the right time of the year ) to Alleppy , drive down from Alleppy on the Changanaserry road and you will bisect for ten kms the waters and can choose any restaurant by the way for indulging. Good luck.

Insignia said...

Anil,

This was a one yumm post. I guess being away from home is inducing such cravings :)

I am not a meat eater; but can understand the cravings :)

Kappa is my favorite too

dr.antony said...

Hi Anil,
First I thought you were going to write something about that lousy outlet at Trivandrum.

I dont know how unique it is,but for everyone,mother's cooking is the memory of food. My mother had an old firewood kitchen, few rusted tins and earthen pots, but I cant remember anything better in taste..I would sit on the ' pathakom' and start the day with her,and test and taste everything she used to make.
You brought me back my fondest memories.

anilkurup said...

@ insignia,

yea B, you may be right.Distance induces craving.

But the very day I posted this on the blog, the evening I chanced to be having Seer fish curry and Kappa. Quite lucky- ha some one heard my craving?


@ Doc Antony,

So you too have had the misfortune of eating at that darn outlet in TVM! Welcome to the club of "la' miserables"

Doc modern kitchen do not have "pathakam", I forgot about that until you mentioned in your comments. Yes indeed the days when one used to sit on it and watch mother cook, whisk away bits when she is not watching. Well bygone they are. Never to come back. Alternate is to think and relish the happy moments.

R.Ramakrishnan said...

This was a nice sumptuous mouth watering finger licking post ! I am suddenly full of cravings for my favorite dishes.