Here I am revisiting some of my food memories which I recollected during the first phase of lockdown in 2020 march . And purposefully they all are related with some or the other realizations of mine which I could explore through in those free days..
_ “Mango: not just a fruit but a feeling
Nostalgia is always a very sharp rooted emotion which brings contradictory feelings at the same time. Be it happiness, grief, disappointment, anxiety or anything, nostalgia plays an important role in framing those responses inside me. To be honest, the low moods and uncontrollable tears that I came to face with, in Delhi, were mainly because of these sensations of missing and nostalgia. Be it for Amma, home, field and farm in the home compound, milk man, fishmonger, newspaper boy or anything else, this feeling made me plunge into deep sorrows and whimpers when I shifted to Delhi. I used to lie on my bed and start thinking about various things I was doing in Kerala and how different it is now here in this city. The main among those were the mangoes which grow vastly in our home fields. The mango season itself is a festival of joy for all of us in our home. The very act of plucking mangoes, its scenic beauty, sourness of raw mango, sweetness of ripen moovandan mango, gathering of everyone in our ancestral home (mango seasons are in the vacation time, so most of us will be there in our ancestral homes) in the evening to cut and share the mango pieces,,…altogether bring a high mood of happiness which when remembered from Delhi- where life was often dry- present a sorrowful nostalgic feel in the heart.
But this quarantine period was a relief from those laments. Having healthy food made with vegetables and fruits grown in the home-farm coupled with the much awaited mango and jackfruit season gives me an inexplicable happiness. Relishing the tastes of mambazha pulissery(ripe mango curry), mango milk shake, manga achar(mango pickle) and raw mango juice and keeping a healthy food routine was really a comfort in this pandemic period.
Vaazha- The all rounder
‘Vaazha’ is a very popular term in Malayalam. Apart from being ‘Banana tree’, it has an indirect meaning which gets used in everyday conversations of every Malayali as well as vastly in Malayalam memes. Though ‘Keralam’ is known for its abundance of wide varieties of ‘Kera’ or coconut trees, vaazha is not at all ready to stay an inch back in this case. In trolls it is compared with the younger generation in every house where parents think about farming a vaazha in their house, because it is far better than having such a useless son or daughter in the house. Though we can only take it as a simple joke, it is very much relatable with the high utility of banana trees in day-to-day life. Each and every part of this tree is as much as useful for a Malayali that a Kerala home without any essence of vaazha is unimaginable.
From the very banana leaf on which we serve food to the pazham payasam which we have at the end of every Kerala sadya, there are several vaazha dishes to speak of.
Pazham varattiyathu, pazham nurukku, unnakkaya, pazham puzhungiyathu, unnithanduppery, chips, varthuppery, kaaya upperi, kaaya elissery, pazhampori, sharjah shake…and the list tends to infinity. Sometimes it is a curse for my brother and me because amma will irritate us by making a lot of vaazha dishes in the adjacent days when the harvest period comes. Still the love and intimacy for vaazha will remain the same, no matter if it is nendravaazha, njalipoovan, mysore, kadali or whatever (these are the vaazha varieties in my home farm).
This quarantine period, I had most of these vaazha dishes and the fluffy “Kaarolappam” aka “Unniyappam” captured the place as one among daily dishes in my evening snacks!
Most of the time, adaptations are meant for a positive outcome in our life. The transplantation to Delhi was no exception! What else can we call it when the pure non-veg me turned to a craver for veg dishes! Yes, I was a non-veg girl till my 12th standard that I haven’t had any interest in vegetable curries throughout those 17 years. Amma had to put at least a single piece of chicken or fish in my lunch box, then with the smell of that piece I will have the rice (that also a very less amount compared to my thin friends who can proudly say their metabolism rate is high, haha). Since I was a fatty girl during my high school and higher secondary days, no one noticed the deficiency of vegetables in my diet, but amma knows the truth.
A small bowl of rice with 2 pieces of fish or chicken (mostly fish though), curd and some upperi; this was my daily lunch and if it got replaced by any vegetable curry, then that day I won’t have a single bolus of rice.
That non-veg me when returned back from Delhi for the first mid-semester break made her mother wonder to the extent of her thinking “if this is my daughter or not”!. Staying away from home made me miss even those things I disliked earlier.
Kanji and Chammanthi was one among them. Kanji was always a fever dish for me, because other than my fever times I never used to prefer kanji as my food. And on those days I used to get astonished to see Harikrishnettan(my eldest brother) having kanji mixed with chammanthi and papadam with a very pleasant expression on his face using his bare hands. I wondered as to what and how he enjoyed this rice and water mix!
And today Delhi life has taught me that even kanji and chammanthi has a special taste and feel when it is not available for you. Every home curry and dish have a special taste which you will come to realise when you stay away from your home (I know that majority knows it already from their home itself, but for me it was a new lesson.)
Yes, Jackfruit is Love
Chakka (jackfruit) always reminds me of my father. In my early childhood notions, his tallness and the broad and wide body full of hairs can be related with the big size and prickly nature of the fruit. But inside he is sweet as the flesh of a jackfruit. In early childhood, I hated men, especially those who had a bold mustache. I don’t reach out to them when they approach me with their lovely pampering and care. This was the same reaction towards my father too in the early days of my birth. But now Amma explains how he became an exception then. He was the one who removed my childhood stereotype and taught that outer structure doesn’t define the nature of inner core. (I was a baby and these all are the things what my amma told and I follow believing till today).
Today also this is the same emotion every child has towards my father. He is very lovely and kindly towards everyone that anyone who knows him can define his nature with only one word, that is ‘love’.
Now everyone else will consider it very strange to relate him with a jackfruit, but for me it’s perspicuous. See, the thorny nature and big size of jackfruit are not at all likeable for a child like me who hates every masculine character. But since I know the sweetness inside it, once I see the outer cover itself, I will fall for my love towards chakka. And this time I had one of my favourite dishes “Chakka elissery” which is prepared with raw jackfruit in my Chitta’s very own unique cooking style.” _
Yes, here I am cherishing those privileged memories which are still the endearing ones…