Friday, August 24, 2007
Once upon a time, like many other moms in our country, my mom made ghee at home. Our milk was supplied by a milk man every morning at 5:00 AM, who claimed that the milk was 'drawn' from his cow that very morning at 3:00 AM. We started buying milk in plastic cover only after coming to Madras because the evil madras milk man poured water on top of an already poor Madras milk. Every time she'd pick up the milk packet in the morning, she'd say, "it is not even close to anything like Coimbatore/thirunelveli milk". The problem with milk in Madras was that the cows, well yes the ones you see blocking traffic in Doraisami subway, grazed on the great dustbins of Madras. The elders complained that a cow that grazed on banana leaves thrown out from marriage halls had output quality issues. This meant that it neither gave good milk nor good cow dung. This upset the elders as pure cow dung (I am reminded of the Crazy Mohan 'Satellite Saamiyar' joke - "Komiyam'e cow oda impure, ithula pure komiyam veriyaa") meant a lot to their agarbathis (incense sticks). If all the old mamas in madras took to the streets against the milkman, to protest, their slogans would be "grass, not paper". Incidentally, they would use the same slogan to appeal for legalization of dope.
Well before the days of packet milk, my mom loved making ghee at home. After the friendly neighborhood coimbatore/thirunelveli milkman delivered the milk, she followed the standard process of 'urai kuthi'fying the milk every night (need English word for the process of putting small quantities of yesterday's curd into today's milk, thereby starting the 'athibayankaramulu' scientific process of converting that milk to curd). While this gave out a vile smell when I got up in early in the morning, I looked forward to the ghee it would generate. The resulting curd had a top layer called "Yedu" (I still don't know the English word for this). This Yedu is crucial to the ghee manufacturing process. My mom diligently collected this 'yedu' every day and put it in a separate vessel. Once the 'yedu' quantity had reached sufficient threshold levels, my mom would kick start phase II of the process. She would put all the 'yedu' in a mixie (blender) and the blender would separate the butter milk and the butter from the 'Yedu'. The butter is then heated to make ghee. The butter -> ghee process takes about 1 hour of heating at various temperatures and is a big thing. Of course, this chemistry-experiment conversion had several side effects. It gives out a nasty smell, which my friend ColorKing hated. The smell is so strong that even if you shoved a bottle of Amrutanjan up your nose, you'd still smell the butter. Reminded, me of the acid or chemical in the chemistry lab (was it PbNO3?) that gave out a real mean smell. That chemical, metaphorically, smelled like the fart of an elephant, after it has eaten a 1-Ton truck load of garlic (Don't ask me, how I know it - its all poetic license). So, back to ghee, if I wanted to keep ColorKingaway from my house for considerable periods of time, it was time to ask my mom to make ghee.
Ghee, the most fattiest and the most dangerous of all food items, is my most favorite milk product ( yes! Thiraty Pal comes second). When you are a teenager and your face is buried in pimples, ghee is the last thing you should be eating. Like, onion, ghee in any food item takes that item to another dimension. Ghee in 'seru' (wet sand) form is my favorite. This is a stage in ghee's lifecycle where ghee resembles wet sand or wet cement. Its neither completely solid nor completely liquid. Its in a semi solid state, which some compare to the look of phlegm. Not exactly a motivation for a food item, but nevertheless I'll put it out there. I hated ghee bought directly from shop. Anything Amul was taboo for me. I couldn't bear the smell of it on my food. Especially the ghee made from those nasty yellow color Dalda dabbas.
Nowadays, my mom does not make ghee like that. She just buys butter from a shop and makes ghee out of it. Doesn't taste as well the home-made ghee.