Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It has been said that when a Pharaoh walks into a pyramid looking to spend his last days and beyond, he would take with him, gigantic quantities of food, women, and clothes. While he can be excused for not talking in a gigantic Namitha instead of gigantic quantities of Egyptian women, one cannot forgive him for not having Sugarcane on the list. I have a "Pharaoh list". These are list of my favorite items, I would take with me into the Pyramid. Sugarcane will certainly be on that list.
Spending this Pongal in Madras comes as a boon. It is not as great as Pongal down south, say Thanjavur or Thirunelveli. But it delivers. As sugarcane after sugarcane gets polished off, one is compelled to pay obeisance to mother nature for this wonderful product. The ancient Thamizhan must have been a wise man. If Pongal is Thamizh land's biggest festival and Sugarcane is the jewel in the "Pongal Paanai" (The Pongal boiling Pot) - then one has to concede that the greatness of sugarcane has been duly recognized. Reminds me of a pongal in a village called Ariyoor where I duly recognized 8 full-sized sugarcanes in 3 days. The subsequent temporary loss of speech (tongue damage), incredible pain in various body parts is but a minor footnote.
There are several tricks to eating the sugar cane. Most of it obvious but needs stating for posterity sake.
  1. Peeling it off - How? They key to eating sugarcanes in rapid succession is to shave of the entire stick prior to eating it. Some people struggle with this decision. The incredible allure of the cane forces one to immediately start eating it and peel the thick cover while eating it. This is a painful and ultimately inefficient process. Several tongue scars and and lip scars occur as a result of this unproductive activity.
  2. Chop the extremities: Although, it hurts to waste good sugarcane just because there happens to be mud in it - one does the sane thing.
  3. Post-Processing: Remember seeing the crushed sugarcane coming out of the sugarcane juice thingie-bobbie. Where does it fall? Into a big bin. Now what would happen if that thingie-bobbie was in your house and you were that thingie-bobbie? Where would the crushed, squeezed remnants fall? Spread newspapers on the balcony/terrace floor and sit in the middle of it. Sit at the center of it and start spitting furiously.
  4. Apply ghee liberally on the tongue. It helps heal the wounds.
  5. Watch the boundaries: A sugarcane's anatomy is essentially a bunch of 7.5 inch scale-ruler long cylinders of tasty sugar section joined by a hard rock like joints. The key to a good sugar cane is the length of the sugar cane between the joints. The longer the better. Joints are uneatable teeth jammers.
  6. Watch Out For the spoilt ones: Believe it or not some sugar canes have shady sections to them. The key is spot them before biting them. Otherwise a good looking white 'karumbu' segment might taste like ginger.
  7. The Roots: Some Sugarcanes have root like things growing at the bottom. If you cannot avoid buying them, be careful of those sections while eating them.


Alan Smithee said...

Admit. You like Namitha.

Hawkeye said...

who would not like 50,000 Sq Ft of arable land?

rads said...

arghhhhh, now I miss this time in Madras even more! :(

Anu Russell said...

22 pongals in Tamilnadu and the rest in a foreign land. I miss pongal a lot, though I ponga vetchify and make yummy chakkarai pongal, the mann vasanai and the karumbu eating are things I miss.

Amma would carefully cut small peices of karumbu for us kids so that we dont hurt ourselves but then we would go to the neighbors house and eat the whole karumbus...hurt our teeth and our mouth! Appo enga pochu indha guidelines?!!!

Nice one...nybagam varudhe!

MLC said...

appo unga list le namitha irupaangala:-D?
"these r the things, i'll take to the pyramid" nu sollitu, list-ey kaanoam!! sugarcane dhaan irundhadhu .. halwa kudukardhu kaelvipattirkaen.. ippo sugarcane-umaa???

Gradwolf said...

Sugarcane saapdardhu I donno, but sugarcane juice with ginger is pure bliss. The best one is outside Indian Bank, T.nagar branch near panagal park.

Alan Smithee said...

You said it. She's got some top notch real estate.

alpine path said...

Lovely! Reminds me of the 20 years of Pongal occasions with blissful karumbu eating :)

Angel's Flight said...

Love Karumbu...miss pongal in Madras :(

Its been so long since I ate a Karumbu in its entirety that it has become a distant memory....:((

At least now I know whts on my agenda, next time I see a sugarcane!!..cannot guarantee that the guidelines will be followed!..lolz

Hawkeye said...


:-) I had a madras pongal after a decade.


funny that you mention 'cutting small pieces'. I think I ave t resort to doing that. Both for me and my mom.


namitha will be on the list behind a line of people.


:-) I lived right opp to that for several years. now that Indian bank does not exist.


i am just glad i got this chance.

ange's flight,

outside this season, buying raw sugar cane isnt something I would recommend.

Gradwolf said...

errr, are you talking about the erstwhile branch on doraiswamy? It got shifted to the one after panagal park bus stop/sbi bank....My dad worked there. It's not there now? It was there till I left for US(july 2007)

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