Sunday, July 4, 2010


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There is a popular adage that one always leads to another. This seems to be true as I had ventured to reflect on the "Two States" by Chetan Bhagat. Now I happened to read a virtuoso performance on the banana leaf in another blog which inspires me to place this blog on this site.

The author has made a wonderful description of the skills required to manouvre the fluids such as rasam, curds, buttermilk etc from reaching the boundaries of the leaf while savouring the goodies on the same receptacle with a fan overhead trying to blow away the favourite appalam while the silk sari vies for attention by ensuring the sweat on the brow. The description took me down the memory lane where I recollected the recipes rattled by dear Appuswamy, the efforts of arranging a wedding at Washington as well as wonder as to whether our own Foodie of the day has attempted this feat. I must admit to have a sneaking admiration for the Foodie of Times Now channel who adds the true flavour to the Cyrus Broacha shows of The news that Wasn't by giving outrageous performances. The travel did take me to my own battles with the food on the banana leaf. The banana leaf was rivalled by a poorer cousin which was round in shape and was in fact a collection of about eight to ten leaves held together by small sticks. These leaves were also popularly used by people to serve the tiffin in functions or at hotels as well as to steam the much revered idlis. The Salem merchants had come up with another novelty of crafting a stainless steel plate with embedded cubicles. In fact, it would amaze some that I still treasure a stainless steel plate which has cup shaped receptacles much like the ones used in some restaurants or darshinis wherein the liquids could be safely contained while one could leisurely chew at the food laid out. All this when I am not one of the favourites of any reasonably good chef with a sane head on his or her shoulders. The reason being my ineptitude to do any justice to the fare laid out.

As I visualise people heaving sighs at the number of feasts I have given a miss only to ensure that I do not become a cynosure for the abysmal performance, another incident came to my mind which would set anyone thinking.

We had the privilege of being the neighbour of a native of Tumkur district who believed that they were the best in terms of purity and emphasised that they were above "even Brahmins". We used to be in awe of her peerage though I must admit that in retrospect the smart lady had ensured that none question her caste credentials by invoking such a pristine position. Imagine a catastrophe striking a person of such a noble lineage. What else it could be than that her brother who chose to marry a person outside their caste more so which was considered much lower in the name of love? All offences had been committed at one go by this superbrat but the noble lady would still host a feast for the young couple. The nobility thus displayed was greeted by tears of this errant brother. One marvelled at the tears of joy and gratitude that welled in the eyes of the guest who had sacrificed his noble lineage at the altar of marriage.

It was much later that one was enlightened that the serving of the meal had taken place on the round congregation of leaves. Banana leaves after all a costly affair, one thought. But how was one to know that if a close relative of this noble community was served a luncheon on the leaf then it amounted to humiliation as per their tradition.

If this is the tale between Tumkur and Bangalore what could be the difference between Punjab and Tamil Nadu would be anyone's guess. It is for nothing that one says that India revels in its diversity.

My heart goes out to those Punjabis who are adept at tearing of a portion of the paratha held in the left hand by the right hand and gulping it with ado as much as it goes out to the Tamilian who believes that the left hand has sinned and should never be seen to as much as touch his much privileged leaf. While rasam of South and the kulchas of the North vie with each other we do have the binding force in the dal albeit cooked differently. If you disagree cruise along in a houseboat on the Dal lake to set the appetite on fire.

1 comment:

Sudhi The quest said...

wonderful discussion on the plates and the palates :) well it made me get out of the seat and go for lunch :)... the way it was expressed made me really visualise the entire thing..