Friday, December 14, 2007

In which I owe it to curd rice

Growing up in a regular, south Indian middle class family, I never paid much attention to food.

It was something to be had before you left for school, and something to be had after school. Well, it couldn't have been that dour an experience. After all, I did look forward to opening my sambar rice laden lunch box at school everyday to much applause, acclaims, and praise from friends. My mother's sambar rice was a hit with everybody.

Sambar rice and beans curry to be precise-a deadly combination. Then there were the curd rice days, which to be honest, I enjoyed more than the sambar chaadam. To me curd rice spelt bliss. What could be more comforting than cool, seasoned curd rice with mango pickle or whatever curry it was the graced the surface of the curd rice in the lunch box.

My curd rice affliction also owes to the fact that most of my childhood was spent in the hot and sultry south-Madurai and later Madras. It would have been harakiri to pack say milagai podi laden dosais, or spicy vegetable rice or the more delectable yet still spicy paneer preparations that my friend Sumegha would bring to school everyday. Curd rice suited the climes. It also suited the often ventilation less, ceiling fan deprived classrooms that we were often prey to at school.

So, when you're just about done with another half hour of Sasikala's stentorian ramblings about the difference between convex and concave surfaces (I still wouldn't know, one bulges out and the other bulges in?), when the sun is beating down outside and the only other sound is the nervous snicker exchanged between the 2 girls sitting behind you (who knows why, may be they heard the plump kid fart or may be they discovered a hastily written, abandoned love letter from that boy to this girl), about the only thing your half drowsy, sweat stained self can look forward to is curd rice.

So, to cut the long story short, I was never much of a foodie. This is not to say that the food that I got at home was uninspiring. Quite the opposite. But you don't quite realize the rarity of good home cooked food until you get away from home and consider a cuppa coffee a wholesome breakfast.

So, it wasn't until 4 years back that I truly began to appreciate food, because I knew how bad it could taste when I made it myself.

The other day, I was on the phone with my mother and was expressing my guilt at not having helped around in the kitchen or appreciating what she did for us everyday. My mother of course, had to point out that I did in fact help her out by cleaning the stove and the kitchen top every night. I then pointed out that I never did like doing that.

The point being that I have now stumbled upon what could be a great hobby, perhaps a career too, if I don't graduate from grad school, (which might be imminent, given am sweating more over this blog than my dissertation).

So, dear curd rice, may you live forever. May you grace the grease stained innards of all overweight humankind, may your curd never curdle, may your rice never get sticky, and may your pristine whiteness adorn the hollow insides of many a leaky nose, pig tailed lass's tiffin box.

(Aside:The term curd rice (more precisely its tamil variant, thayir sadam) these days is also a reference to wet behind the ears, studious, yet socially awkward, tamil brahmin 20-30 somethings. When in college, my friends and I wore it on our sleeves. We were proud to be thayir sadams. I believe it was a self-esteeming boosting move on our part, because we soon came to realize that we were neither the extremely industrious kind that wouldn't part from their books, nor the extremely insouciant kind that would skip classes to watch movies in theaters nearby. So we were the thayir sadams. We knew the theory behind things, but were never brave enough to do it. We would skip classes to catch a bite of samosa at the cafeteria but never to hitch a ride with boyfriends to the beach. We would be loud and obnoxious but never enough to be sent home.)

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