नित्यानन्दकरी वराभयकरी सौन्दर्यरत्नाकरी
निर्धूताखिलघोरपावनकरी प्रत्यक्षमाहेश्वरी ।
भिक्षां देहि कृपावलम्बनकरी मातान्नपूर्णेश्वरी ॥१॥
Salutations to Mother Annapoorna Who always give Joy to Her Devotees, along with Boons and assurance of Fearlessness (under Her Motherly care) . Jai Maa.
The Rustic Kitchen ( chapter 1 )
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after
Jack got up, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper
Sitting on the veranda of her kitchen , Ammoomma sang out loudly in chaste English. She was very proud of her English medium education upto 8th std . She studied in the Balika madom school in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram . This made her a loyal follower of the royal family of Travancore . She also sang poems praising the royal kings and queens
of Vanchi nadu .
She had the habit of singing poems to entertain herself.
‘’My father taught us in an English medium school , but I am not fortunate enough to sign the acquaintance role ‘’ Ammoomma let out her existential frustration to the motley crowd of listeners including me.
She was unfortunate to lead a life of struggle and poverty after her marriage to my Appooppan. She had to depend on the meager finances grand pa brought in from various works he did. He always switched jobs. Few years he worked in The ordinance factory at Pune , then he left it and came back and worked as a teacher in the village school. Later he ran a ration shop also.
We could barely manage to make the ends meet with the small income from grand pa’s pension and the money order of hundred rupees sent by my mother every month . Grand ma had a league of helpers and they all need to be fed. However food was a plenty in her kitchen. She had this blessing of the Goddess of food.
Grand ma’s kitchen was very basic and rustic. She had a few kal chattis (stone pans ) , man chattis (clay pots ) wooden spatulas . Occasional spats between grand ma and grand pa witnessed a few broken man chattis. These were replenished at the annual temple festival of Sreevallabha Temple. Festivals marked the arrival of new beautifully carved stone pans to our kitchen. I loved these new pots and waited for the annual festival to indulge in shopping. I loved everything new. Later on I realized newness is the magic of Love. You look at anything with love in your eyes and see them glowing in newness. There were three grinding stones. One was inside the kitchen to grind the coconut and spices, one outside to grind idli batter , another one was kept on the veranda to split the dals. There was an ‘’Ural ‘’ to pound the rice . To serve food there were plates and banana leaves . There were steel glasses to serve ‘’kattan kaappi’’ . Lots of fire wood and dry coconut shells and coconut husks were stored inside and out side the kitchen for the cooking fuel. The kitchen and surroundings wafted the distinctive smell of dry wood when nothing was cooking.
Granny would wake up at morning 5 am and retire at 8 pm to sleep .
From morning 5 am to night 8 pm kitchen was abuzz with activities .
The first person to come is Parukkuttyamma to milk the Sankari Cow. Before she arrived granny keeps a clean brass pot and clean water near the cowshed. Parukkuttyamma will clean the udders with the water and warm frothing milk is collected in the big brass jug and is given to the kitchen. Granny’s first item is always coffee. Grand Pa gets a thick enriched coffee with milk and sugar.
She makes kattan kappi ( black coffee with a strong flavour ) for herself. The pot of kattan kaappi is always brewing on one of the burners of the the aduppu till night . It is granny ‘s energy drink . She also fondly gave glasses of kattan to the many visitors during the day. Coffee fragrance permeated the kitchen air and surroundings like temple incense in the morning breeze when I woke up. This exposure to a wide range of exotic aromas from nature , flowers and food in my childhood made me very sensitive to smell later in life. I can relate to anything with their fragrance or anyone with their body odour . I became a connoisseur of smells.
The enchanting scent of earth at the onset of the first rains. The delightful fragrance of the mogra bud about to open in the evening. The mystical subtle fragrance of the night blossom Brahamakamal . The teasing smell of raw mangoes. The mouth watering aromas of fresh ground spices wafting from the kitchen. The heady smell of a Starbucks latte. I am a slave of the olfactory delights , Thanks to the unpolluted childhood of the seventies .
We had a rich breakfast menu. The main course is always puttari kanji (rice gruel made from brown unpolished rice ) . Kanji was served with a different mouth watering curry (gravy) or puzhukku (dry ) on most days. The warm kanji is drank with a spoon made from a ripe yellow jack fruit leaf. Grand Pa would sit in a lotus posture on the veranda and make me sit near him in the same posture. First he would feed the little me with the leaf spoon. I always cried and made tantrums while eating . Many a times I received a smack on my thighs from my irritated grand pa during this exercise of eating breakfast . That sweetness is forgiven but the taste of the melting in the mouth kanji and curries are never forgotten.
There were days when idli and chammanthi , Puttu or Upma was made for breakfast.
Grand ma had her own songs for every chore in the kitchen. She would sing merrily while doing this tedious task of cooking throughout the day.
Lunch was again steamed brown rice served with an array of vegetables and fish in the menu.
Evening four o clock coffee break had many sweets and savouries and sometimes steamed tubers .
Throughout the day the Pazham Kanji (fermented rice ) was served for the servants and many family members also had personal favour for fermented rice and curry than fresh steamed rice .
Dinner is once again warm Kanji served with lighter accompaniments like roasted papapd and chammanthi (coconut chutney ) and upperis.
Let us start with Granny’s welcome drink ‘’kattan kappi’’ itself. If you ask me I will say The most sensuous fragrance one can ever experience is the smell of freshly brewed black coffee on a misty morning. It will fill your senses and makes you fall in love instantly with yourself and life . Breath in coffee breath out ecstasy.
Kattan Kappi (serves4 )
Fresh coffee powder 2 tsp
Water 4 cups
Sugar 1 tsp
If not sugar one can use powdered palm jaggery 2 tsp
Boil the water add the sugar and coffee and simmer for two minutes.
Katatn kappi is ready.
Idli on a leaf
The ancient method of cook and serve was using a leaf to cook and eat on the same.
My granny used this method to the fullest. This added flavours and intones of the leaf used for cooking to the main course. To prepare Idlis she used shreds of old linen mundu and and also Poovarassu leaves. I had forgotten all about this delicacy after shifting to Pune in the beginning of nineties. One day a casual encounter with a poovarassu plant someone planted by the roadside for shade made me go on a nostalgia trail once again. I collected some leaves and came home in great excitement. Next day there was idlis made on leaves was served for breakfast.
Poovarassu leaves were collected and cleaned thoroughly using wet towels. Now the leaves are smeared with a thin layer of sesame oil by hand. Ladle full of idli batter is poured on this leaf and kept for steaming in the idli cooker. Once cooked you can remove the leaf and eat the soft idlis moulded on poovarassu leaves. These idlis tastes great with coconut chutney and mulaku podi. After eating the idli a small glass of kattan is a must .
Here is the recipe for Idlis and chutney for the ones who want to try it 🙂
Idli rice or Boiled rice 3 cups
Urad dal 1 /2 cup
Soak for 6 hours.
Grind in a stone grinder to a soft batter without adding much water.
Keep for fermenting overnight.
Gun Powder (Mulaku Podi )
Dry red chillies 10 to 12
Urad dal 4 tsp
Black pepper 1 tsp
Raw rice 3 tsp
Hing 1 tsp
Salt to taste.
Dry roast all the ingredients and make a fine powder.
Store in a dry container. Add a spoonful of coconut oil to the chutney powder and use it as a chutney for idli and dosas.