Friday, July 21, 2006

Weekend Cooking

Growing up, weekend cooking in my house was a separate beast. It was much different from the weekday cooking. I do not know if it is traditional or in anyway representative of anythinng larger than just my family, but many people I have spoken to share similar experiences.

Saturday

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!

Sunday

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.

1) Rice:

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.

32 comments:

tilotamma said...

A food post by Hawkeye :-). I think I will try to make Milagu kozhumbu some time - Ihave completely forgotten the taste.

anantha said...

Hawkeye: Vazhaikkai = Raw plantain which is slightly different from our Senthil-Goundamani banana.
And yes, I agree with your Sunday description, though Saturday was just another day for my mom. My mom makes the best keerai I have eaten (I come close too, IMHO).
The advice about Okra is appreciated because my sambhar sucks sometimes solely because of the okra in it. But my doubt is, you anyway will add salt to taste, so are you asking me to add salt/buttermilk to it before I fry it? When I wash the okra in water perhaps?
I won't brag about MY avial or MY rasam, because though I am a IR fan myself, self podaradhu ennaku pudikadhu. In any case, I am sure Prabhu (or mebbe Anu too) is going to put in a word here. So Prabhu/Anu, the stage is yours.

Hawkeye said...

all,

pls tell if your sat cooking rembled this.

tilo,

ya the post was also inspired by the 'maracheeni' discussion you were having in ammani's blog. i mentioned maracheeni here because i love it.

anantha,

vazhaikka - also known as punishment :-)

the okra i am pretty sure is alkaline by nature so it becomes spongy and all liquidy. i think lemon (citric acid? ..no?) and buttermilk i have some sort of acid in them. This neutralizes alkaline. Adding salt, if i amnot mistaken will only increase alkalinity and kozha-kozha'ness.

Avial: i guessed with some mallu-blood running in your that you should be better than 90% of people in any other state. When i visit NYC/NJ oru avial treat appo (w/o any adai)

anantha said...

Hawkeye: All the talk of alkalinity aside, when do you want me to "add" salt? Naan chemistry la weak! In any case we add salt to sambhar, so why more salt, is my question!
About the avial treat, soore.. But we can just go to Saravana Bhavan too. Saturday night anga dhaan saapadu. Soooper appu!

Hawkeye said...

anantha,

from my answer itself u should have guessed i am a kazhanda case:-) sorry for not getting ur question.

i dont know the answer. i know its added to enhance taste. iw ould first find out if adding stuff that has alkaline'ness will have the effect as adding salt. i cant say anything further without totally saying something that would cause DPE to want my high school certificate back.

Sowmya said...

molagu kozhambu + jeera molagu rasam => sounds like some bowel cleansing treatment.

chempangazhagu is taro root.

pazha+satru+amudhu - didn't know that. saathundhu is what i call it.

I also had lots of preferences about food when I was in India, ippo podalanga poricha koottu kooda saapduven.

Weekend cooking in my house always had vengaya sambhar, sometimes vengaya vethal kozhambu + potato kaai.

One small nit-picking - 'potato' is the right spelling, only when pluraling it is potatoes with an 'e' ;-) same with tomato.

(kovathula kaadhu lerndhu pogai vandhaalum , kutram kutrame!!)

Anu said...

Nice post hawkeye. Enga veelta Saturday was the usual sambar/kootu/kuzhambu-rasam-vegetable(mostly potato).
Sunday lunches always used to consist of vengaya sambar-poondu/milagu rasam (my favorite) and seppankizhangu curry. Totally divine. Especially after an oil bath, the heavy lunch used to lull me to sleep in the lazy afternoons.
Miss the good old days.

~Anu

Hawkeye said...

sowmya,

saathu + amudhu is a popular colloqialization that led to believe that it is "nectar for food". it is wrong.

i have never heard 'sathundu' i think its a mutant of sathumdhu.

i now know about the 'e' problem. so i am no good in chemi + spelling. good to know. thanks for this though.

/*ippo podalanga poricha koottu kooda saapduven. */

so this is your rock bottom. understandable 'podalanga' sucks for many. for me its 'nool kol' heard of that? its a vegetable. another good-for-health but sucky-taste vegetable.

i think mulagu kuzhambu + jeera mulagu is a massive bowel cleanser. extremely spicy. i cant handle spice very well.

Hawkeye said...

anu,

/* Especially after an oil bath, */

so like US long weekends ..u rounded it off to weekend from friday.

i remember that being a point of contention for many cousins - friday oil bath.

i think even that had like a sama-mcp rule. with guys getting it on saturday.

Anonymous said...

No one can beat Anantha's keerai. Worlds best in Athens, Ohio.

Poor Anantha will be the only one to have enthu to cook on a saturday evening, will spend 1 hour making his tasty keerai.. I will spend 15 mins making my screwed up beans( 12 mins M/W + 3 mins of thalichings)

When the food is ready, its time to make fun of Anti and his keerai tales. 2 things that I can never forget :
- Anti's keerai
-Anti's "Machi .... Question"

-Prabhu

Yadayada said...

Hawkeye

Your Sunday menu is mouth watering...tell me one thing, u ve them hot or cold? :-)

Babs said...

lemme start by sayin "Vegetarians by far have to be the most finickiest ppl on this earth".

Saturdays for us is usually brunch, but a heavy dinner feast in the name of potluck :-) later.

Sundays sounds like a lunchy day and usually Muringaika sambhar + potato roast + Ingi pachidy (ginger + coconut + chilli in curd) and ofcourse appalam. I concur 200% hawkeye, man chempangazhagu is a boon to us ;-).

I must admit that hawkeye's mum's drumstick sambhar and bread bonda is one of the best I have had too.

App said...

I forgot all about it. Why do you have to remind us about what we are missing here.. I looooooooooooove Sepannkazhangu and miss it here so much. My favorite sunday lunch is "arachivita sambar" with "beans/kothavaranga parupu usili".
One thing I remember so well is that I would beg my mom for food on Sundays.

Good old days :)

Teju said...

interesting post :)

ahem...

my sunday breakfast differs a lil...

tired from cooking for a 101 people for the first six days of the week... mum takes a break from the routine...and it is the time for the Idly, Vada, Sambar from the Shanti Sagar :D

the consumers include dad(1), mum(1) and myself (99)

Deepa said...

Hey Interestig post,been following your blog for long.

Sunday was one of the following
1) Mysore rasam + potato roast + appalam/vadam
2) Paruppu urundai kozhambu + tomato rasam + stuffed kathirikkai
3) vengaya sambar + tomato rasam + keerai + pacchadi

Saturdays might have milagu kozhmbu + parrupu thogayal.

cheers

Hawkeye said...

prabhu,

i am going ahead and taking anti's side on the whole issue.

yadayada,

i couldve yadayada'ed your question but i like it luke warm. too hot = reject. too cold - not a problem but i have to pretend to society so i cant have it too cold.

Hawkeye said...

Babs,

/*but a heavy dinner feast in the name of potluck */

if we were bachelors our contribution to this potluck would be chips.


/*chempangazhagu is a boon to us */

the kazhangu roast rocks.

you reminded me of bread bonda. been a long long time since i had that.

anantha said...

No one can beat Anantha's keerai. Worlds best in Athens, Ohio.

Prabhu, thanx machi. These days I follow your beans technique too. And I follow it for cabbage and other assorted vegetables as well. And my cooking rocks as usual. ;)

But only one thing slightly iddiching! I am pretty sure that we would have not combined my keerai and your beans in the same day! My sambhar and your beans, yes, but not keerai and beans. Set aagadhu!

Hawkeye said...

/* "beans/kothavaranga parupu usili". */

in retrospect i should have included this in the 'hall of fame'. did you know that people have innovated paruppu usili to "cabbage paruppu usili" etc. paruppu usili's have travelled a long way from kothavaranga but still that is the best.

Hawkeye said...

teju,

/* tired from cooking for a 101 people */

i think this also follows the 1:1:99 ratio.

reminds the age old proverb "the taste of the vadai sambar is directly proportional the duration of the sambhar soak"

throw the whole vadai in a bowl of sambar.

Casement said...

It's the typical Sunday lunch in my home too. If I escape from milagu kozhambu, it was always karuveppilai kozhambu. It is good to taste milagu/curry leaves kozhambu once in a while. I think, I have kept the Sunday-vengaya-sambhar tradition to this day. The only difference is Lay's chips instead of appalam. And, Ill remember the drumstick stuff when you come over to my place.

Hawkeye said...

deepa,

completely left out paruppu thogaiyal. that was there too. i think cocunut thogaiyal and p.thogaiyal served the dual purpose of side-dish/mix-with-rice.

/* Mysore rasam + potato roast + appalam/vadam */

love mysore rasam. But

/* Paruppu urundai kozhambu + tomato rasam + stuffed kathirikkai */

for some reason i never liked paruppu urundai kozhambu. i dont know why. stuffed kathrikai is awesome.

pachadi - i like pachadi more if some 'manjal' (whats the english word) is mixed during 'thalichification'. people make fun of this preference. i dont care. it rocks.

Hawkeye said...

casement,

was the saturday stuff same too. i am interested in knowing.

yes! please remember the drumstick.

/* I have kept the Sunday-vengaya-sambhar tradition to this day. The only difference is Lay's */

i have it with ruffles (the curly chips). i just think ruffles is an awesome invention.

Casement said...

absolutely the same. Saturday no sambhar day...it was either seeram- milagu rasam and karuveppilai or milagu or some thuvayal and vathal kozhumbu combo. We always insited on pachadi bcos milagu kuzhambu would never go down our throats without some change in taste.
My mother also made something called vegetable rasam which was very common in our saturday thaligai.

And guess what, I am 'varuthing' thuvaram paruppu/ulutham paruppu for milagu kuzhambu now!:)) Your post seems to be quite influential...

Casement said...

Did they make panagam every Thursday at your place?

Hawkeye said...

i remember my mom giving panagam now and then. never kept track of the day. not a good sweet eater and cried like a baby to drink 3 drops of panagam.

Anu said...

:) Nice post..
Saturday is marked by Poricha Kootu + Thogayal + Veppamppoo rasam (or killu molaga rasam sometimes). And Saturday night, it is palagaram night for all the periyavaa, so it is Upma or Kozhukattai.
Sunday is always Sambhar + Urulaikizhangu podimas + Poondu rasam + keerai.
Damn, Im hungry now!

Suresh Ramani said...

you not only failed to mention "paruppu" thogayal (not just any thogayal) .. its the combination of paruppu thogayal AND milagu kozhambu that truly ROCKS.

if I buy an impulse ticket to India, should I send you the bill???

Hawkeye said...

anu,

/* Veppamppoo rasam (or killu molaga rasam sometimes) */

it has been a long time since i heard this. i used to run away when my mom made this :-)

the evening palagaram was the reason for the totally deviant morning cooking.

Hawkeye said...

/* paruppu thogayal AND milagu kozhambu that truly ROCKS. */

I agree that combo is really awesome.

/* if I buy an impulse ticket to India, should I send you the bill??? */

be my guest! :-) u did not call me at all you dog!

tilotamma said...

ada - culinary corner -nu orru category-a?

aparna said...

this is really sinful!!!!!! why did i ever come to the u.s of a?????