By nature of the day being 'shani' or whatever the cooking resembled the day's name. In my younger days, I seriously resented my house's saturday cooking. However, I grew to love it much much later. South Indian Tamil cooking for novices consists of certain basic structure and variety happens within that strict structure. For example there is rice. And then things are made that is mixed with Rice. Then there is a side dish. Usually 3 kinds of things are mixed with rice (1) Sambar (2) rasam (3) Buttermilk. Ofcourse variations and corruption of modern western culture :-) and the advent of kali yuga, MTV, and Da vinci code - people have started mixing anything from Sidedishes(vegetables) to daal powder -> cocunut powder -> pickles with rice. I will just deal with the usual suspects.
So on Saturday we had
1. Rice: Nothing special here. Its basically Madurai Ponni Rice or a variant. Cannot be boiled rice or puzhungal arisi (at least in my house). Basmathi rice, though more healthy, is also a no-no. I think what we have is called Raw rice.
2. Sambhar/ Kuzhambu (Mixed with rice and Eaten): On saturday my mom made Mulagu Kuzhambu: Kuzhambu or Sambar, as it is more popularly called, is thick, maybe more viscous (who knows). Some kuzhambus have dal (toovar/toor daal) and some don't. The Mulagu kuzhambu in this instance does not have daal. I have to say Mulagu Kuzhambu is the most despicable of all kozhambus. I mean, the first time it was given to me, I hated it. No matter how well it was done, I hated it. You can bring the world's best mulagu kuzhambu cook and do the best kozhambu ever, I'd still hate it. The presence of Mulagu, as the name suggests, was the basic cause of the disharmony. I hated mulagu in any form in any food. Having a Kuzhambu made just out of it was torture. However, nowadays for the sake of variety I have not raised strong objections to this. In fact I have secretly confessed that I have begun to like it.
3. Seera (Jeera) Mulagu (oh! no! not again) Rasam: Rasam is sort of a free flowing thing. By the ancient order of the food serving sequence, after you finish the sambar+rice+vegetable combo, more rice is put on the plate and rasam is poured on top of it and second serving of vegetable is kept. Many who do not know the value of rasam, prefer to eat it as soup. Some people also call it by its ancient Tamil name - pazha-satru-amudhu ( Nectar made from fruit pulp). This name so rightly describes Rasam(what does rasam mean?). To me Rasam is like the queen among food items. But not Seera(jeera) + Mulagu rasam. This again, although liked by many sane(r) people, was, according to me, the most horrible among all rasams. I literally moaned and bitched when this double horror was served to me on saturday mornings. My mom would never listen to my abuses and calls for justice. She would calmly serve it and leave regardless of the negativity of my profound opinions. I now know that it is good for health and in some way it could be called tasty, but I still dont understand why something that is good for health refuses to be tasty.
4. Vegetable: This is ofcourse the side dish (thottuka) that is served along with the 3 main rice items. If the cooking is grand you get 2-3 vegetables. Vegetables if made along with moong/toor dal and presented in free flowing form is called kootu (which I think means combination / mix). A grander version of this with many different vegetables and cocunut(its a keralite invention so it comes with the mandatory cocunut) is called 'avial' (normally eaten with adai, which I hate). Saturday we have just 1 vegetable. That too is the horrible - vazhaikka (unripe bannana?).
5. Curd Rice + pickle (nothing extra ordinary here)
So as you can see. Saturday cooking no matter how delicious it was to other people, has always been my enemy. The lull before the storm, the cheap advertisemnt before the movie. Most of my family loved it. Many people love. I began to love it when i reached 1000 buffalo's age. But I have to say Saturday cooking never beats the Sunday Speciaaaal!
As the old saying goes "Sunday is over if you take a bath" and it is so true. My house, which insists on lunch at 9:00 AM, waits until 1:00 PM for lunch on Sunday. While waiting hungrily for this special cooking, I eat saturday's idli left overs. And its not just idli. My mom mixes the idli with chilli powder and mashes it into a pongal sort of thing and gives us the 'idli urundai' (which is the idli + chilli mashed thing rolled into a sphere).
The Sunday cooking which is what makes Sunday - Sunday is as follows.
2) Onion Sambhar + Drumstick: The key is to fry the onion until it turns brown, put tomatoes and fry further in the beginning.You have to do this until you see the oil separate from the mix. I think the amount of time you spend blending the onion and tomatoe in the beginning is directly proportional to the taste. This sambhar has daal and lots of it.This is essentially the 'paruppu kuzhambu' but since 'onion' takes anything to a whole new dimesnion, it becomes vengaya sambhar (tadaaa), which is further bolstered incredibly by (drum rolls) (see 2-a)
2-a) Drumstick: Drumstick is important. So important that it gets a special serial number for itself. Regardless of Bhagyraaj's personal opinions on this issue, Biology says its the only thing to have Vitamins A, B, C, D. Drumstick is my favorite favorite dish. Anybody reading this, if you are planning to invite me for home - remember drumstick. It is food fit for gods. Really. I have not tasted anything that equals the drum stick. Drum stick is either added in sambhar in the initial stages itself or put in the cooker with daal and added to sambar later.
3) Vegetable: If its Sunday its either Potatoe or Ladies Finger( Vendaikai/Okra/ Bindi). If its potatoe, it has to be cut into small-small pieces and roasted like crazy. If Okra is made then I give unsolicited advise to the person who is cooking - I remember the half-baked chemistry knowledge I have and say " put some butter milk or lemon in it". The question will come back " why the hell?" and I will pontificate "okra is alkaline with high pH values and butter milk/lemon is acid with low pH values - so if you mix both it will neutralize the alkalinity and make the okra less fluid or watery and more strong. You know, for lack of a better word, less kozha-kozha. In the sense it will look more separated and graceful" Ofcourse I sucked in Chemistry and apart from knowing that pH ranged from 1 - 14 with either 1-7 = acid and 7-14 alkaline or vice versa. But I said it anyway with a lot of authority. This advise is usually ignored unless my grandma is around to nod her approval. She doesn't know chemistry either but these old people - they know all the tricks. Cabbage or Sepannkazhangu (what's the english name for this?) could topple Potatoe or Okra sometimes in the fight to the Sunday lunch plate. It is hard to decide if Sepankazhangu is awesome or the channa dal+other stuff (the things that are added initially to the oil) is awesome.
4) Rasam: Tomatoe Rasam + Daal. Now this is rasam at its best. Nothing beats this rasam. Definetly not Lemon Rasam (which occasionally spoils Sundays). Ofcourse I have to say my mom makes the best rasam I have eaten so far - I know I know it has become mandatory and cliched for everybody to say that - but I think I can be politicaly incorrect and say nobody ( I have seen) beats her rasam (this includes wife, friends, relatives and all that crap).
5) Appalam: Also called pappad. Its hard to explain this to a person who has not seen an appalam. I am not even going to try it. Its like chips but much bigger and much better (and is not made of potatoe). What many dont know is the existence of this appalam called 'maracheeni' appalam ( play stunning music in BG - tadaaaa). It is dark brown in color and has grid shaped lines on it. When fried in oil it just blows up into this awesome thing. I got introduced to this in Thirunelveli. This is by far the best appalam among the three. What three? You may ask. Well! you have your regular Ambiga (not the actress - far from it actually with much less curves) Appalam. Thank God for that. Then there is the Arisi appalam (made of rice flour, i guess), which is So-So. We had all 3 appalams on sunday. It is not Sunday if it there is no appalam.Seriously! lets not start an argument on that.
6) Keerai/ Spinach: This is cut-green spinach + daal. This is awesome. Whoever invented is a God. I specially invite my grandma to cook this for me. Again, politically incorrectly, i have to say her keerai is the best I have seen so far. It is has to be watery and free flowing. Thats the way I like it.
It is important that you eat this food watching TV. It has got to be an awesome program. The food is more tasty if cricket is going on :-)
I think I pretty much covered the weekend cooking. I know half the people must feel hungry by now and the other half must be thinking if I should be punsihed for the gluttony sin. I felt bored this weekend eating in stupid Devon street (everything in Devon street sucks now). And I couldnt help thinking about the grand old Sunday cooking.