Friday, February 02, 2007

Slurrpy Iyers

I was fortunate to have been bred , as a child, in a street where eating was just more than a daily chore. The oldies, I remember, have arranged for massive mass lunches for every conceivable amavasai or pournami.
Coming from such a tradition, Sarvana Bhavan's rationed thayir sadam feels like an insult to the Slurrpy Iyer in me. Here is an ode to the abundance, indulgence and sheer slurrp that I miss!
Iyers of the previous generation, I have known, have squared off their fortunes just by drinking paal payasam and moor kozhambu. Even today my granny cannot make food for less than five people, even if its only she who eats!
A family getto at Iyer homes is a treat not just for our taste buds, but also to our sight. Being a kid I was always the messenger when a devesam or punyajanam happened at our home. I will run the entire street and "invite" the fellow iyer-bagasuraa's for the lunch.
I am not sure why they call it "Thalai vazha elai" . At my age of 10, I could easily strech and sleep on that leaf. Its in this leaf they serve food. Anxiety always took over me when the "tarrap" "tarrap" "krrr" sound of cleaning the leaf starts. What amazed me was not even one of those mamas would tear the leaf with that WWF style washing and nor would they even lift their butt to reach to the contours of the leaf.This is one art, I envy and never could master even to this date.
You must also note that the amount of intake is inversely proportional to the grip of the veshti.The tight veshti relaxes as they progress from sambhar to rasam to payasam to thayir sadam and when they finish the penance (??) the veshti just slips down in sheer load that it cannot bear!
Now back to the basics.
The iyer saapadu inherently breeds socialism. Everyone's given a level playing (?!) ground.Even as you get served, you will wait for the rest of all to get served too and just as players do their team chant, the Iyers do their mantra chants..a la...ready joot 1 2 3
It all starts with a modesty personified drops of payasam whose sweet taste would perhaps be a spoilsport to the sambhar rice that comes next in the order. But Iyers being no ordinary men, use the plain rice to wipe the residual payasam clean and bingo, the banana leaf is ready for its next victim!
There is of course an order in which food is served. Paruppu is always served before food. Salt takes the left extreme, while kootu and poduthuval take the centre stage. If there is Bhoondi it takes a strategically precarious place between uppu and kootu. On the top right, comes exceedingly syruppy and intolerably sweet "pineapple jaam", which rubs often with an equally crappy and sour "thayir pachidi" . The bottom half is reserved for rice and the mixes and payasam.
The best eater is one who has the most rice grains on the inner palm.The more you squeeze and make the food eject out of your fingers, the more you are recognized as a veteran. There is also a tradition to reserve a seat for a person who is anointed as the one through which the departed soul, relishes the lunch and he gets a dhonnai which is yet another improvisation. Its a small banana leaf rolled into into a pentogonal shaped bowl with no stiches what so ever...which is then filled with ....what else... pal payasam.
I learnt about aerobics only when a few years back. But it's always been a familiar exercise having watched our grand dads skillfully doing a half U turn with rasam with the side of the palm turned into a skilled wiper taking along all thakkali and rasam in one massive gravity defying swirl taking off perpendicularly like a sukhoi and then go way up to a rolling tongue and scale back the same way in a split second, back to take over the "now retracing wave" of rasam. Its difficult to put this art in words. But I always wonder, with such relex and navigation skills why did no michael schumakers come out of our community!
Another notable aspect about rasam is how you slirp. An "ussswwwpp" should always follow with another "ussswwwp" within next 40 seconds. If it does not, the rhytm will be lost between sound, aerobics and wiping. There is so much in eating a rasam sadham.
Between every transition from one rice to other, you are served with a liberal dose of pal payasam...and the person who serves invaribaly pours one more scoop...saying "mamaa sandhehathuku" (meaning...just in case you are in two minds and feel for not having another scoop, later)
Talk about spoils !!
Finally they serve you with banana which should technically be ejected out of lack of space, but where there is will, there is intenstine and colon.
After all this, the maamas' then move out to the table kept ready with skillfully arranged vetthalai,sunambu and paaku and here starts "indha kichchambi irukanae...verum jambbam"...Another discussion, another day passes by without realizing what massive fete they have orchestrated in that 2" * 1 " banana leaf!

8 of my fans were here!:

Bhargavi on 10:16 AM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bhargavi on 1:28 AM said...

Kalakita po.. Orru full meals adicha effect koduthuta.. :)

Madhu said...

oru Phd panita poliruku??

Anonymous said...

Ashwin

@ madhu

Amam...seri unga gramathle epdi sapduvel...sllrrrrp thaane?

@Bhargavi

You should watch out on the calories before you leap :) ...and BTW congrats on Employee of the Year award

Revathi on 4:53 AM said...

@ashwin
OH MY GOD!!!this is just too hilarious for words!!amazing!!about a week back my sister had her grahapravesam and the maamas ate exactly the way u have written.in fact i think all iyer maamas eat like this during all occassions without exception except during their devasam when they can no longer eat!!heh heh!!
and this
taking along all thakkali and rasam in one massive gravity defying swirl taking off perpendicularly like a sukhoi and then go way up to a rolling tongue and scale back the same way in a split second
takes the cake away!!

Anonymous said...

Ashwin

@Shruthi

No even if they are no more, still they come as kaakai and eat before we do...remember the "kha" "kha" "kha" sound our people make before serving food to us? One could write a separate post just about this Kha kha ritual and one during pongal where we are asked to revolve like planets..

Bhargavi on 10:36 AM said...

Are we talking about the "Symbol of Prosperity" (that is way you call it right?) - Thanks for pointing that out I do have a constant watch on mine ;) - What about yours :P - if you were practising the techniques you have mentioned in the post - sllrrrrppp - better watch out ;)

BTW.. Thank you :)

Sriram on 5:46 AM said...

Engaathu Sambasiva Sastrigal wouldve shed a tear had he read this.

Kalakitel. Hilarious! :D

 

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