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When my kin remember me ?

‘Thinking of you, Appa’, said Aparna, my daughter, forwarding pictures of two of her preparations I like, , ‘ your favorites…Want to come back to Fl(Florida)?’,

While I was in Florida, my daughter in law , Meghana from Baltimore used to say often, ‘I remembered you today, Appa, while preparing Palpayasam etc. 

My mother too used to say, ‘Konthai, Elai adai undakkarathu, unnathan ninachukkiden’

(You came to my memory while preparing Elai adai’. 

My sisters in Hyderabad too used to remember me while preparing one dish or other.

If you think that I’m remember by my kin while preparing food items you’re wrong.

My wife used to say, ‘it was you whom I remembered when Seshu mama in the opposite house was yelling at his wife for nothing’,  though I never yelled  at my wife and always used to talk to her in honey-soaked padyams of Swathi Tirunal padams- ‘Panimathi mukhi baalae…”

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The stars don't want me to come up ?

My grand niece Gayathri cooked Muringai elai adai and while enjoying it along with veppelai katti, the good lady remembered me and sent a picture of the snack with a tag, ‘missed you, Athan’.
I expected her to ‘miss’ me, while boiling milk, every time!
While I was at her house recently to participate in a Rudrajapam, I volunteered to do any work and unable to tolerate my nuisance, I was asked to ‘keep a watch’ on the milk being cooked on two vessels on the stove, side by side. After a few minutes, one of the guests came in and seeing me standing like a stick and not stirring the liquid, starred at me, removed one of the vessels from the stove, which was slowly getting charred at the bottom of the vessel.
“The milk didn’t boil,” I volunteered to show that I did my job perfectly and if the vessel got charred, it was not my mistake.
“Ilakkanam!”- you had to stir it-a strong but short admonition( considering my age).
Instantly, I started stirring the liquid in the second vessel on the stove while the ‘ilakkanam’ instructor was busy transferring the milk from the first vessel to another one. Suddenly, with no warning, the milk under my control bubbled and while I was searching for the ‘off’ button, it overflowed on the stove with a ‘keetch’ sound.
‘Palu, palu,’ I yelled and the ‘ilakkanam’ instructor turned at me and stared as if I had meddled with his Panchagatcham. He had come ready on his traditional dress for the worship.
Having known that he is a Pediatrician, I volunteered, ‘my nephew too is a Pediatrician’. That statement was absolutely unnecessary there. But that was just my effort to cool him down and gain his friendship. But instead of saying, ‘then, it is ok’, he simply said, ‘I see’.
While I was searching for paper napkin to remove the milk spilled on the stove table and clean it, my grand niece entered in and consoled me, ‘it is ok, Athan’.
‘It is not Ok,” I expected the ‘ilakkanam’ to say, while she was clearing the mess. But he didn’t. My ‘pediatrician’ dose had obviously worked.
But, I didn’t want to look small before my grand niece. I pulled out my iPad and showed her the picture, she had clicked on the previous evening, of my boiling the milk with great success.
This was what happened then. Her husband was boiling milk on a gas stove outside while I was strolling nearby enjoying his garden and swimming pool. Someone called him from inside and he rushed handing over me the ladle with a request, ‘ please keep a watch’. After two minutes, he retuned and wanted to take over but I refused.
‘Don’t worry,’ I told him. ‘ I’m an expert in boiling milk’
Apparently, he didn’t believe my words, seeing the angle in which I was holding the ladle in my hand, but he didn’t want to insist on my parting with it and hurt my feelings. Therefore, he went inside, keeping a close watch at me through the glass partition door, so that he could jump in and save the milk, in case it was about to overflow. His wife, enjoyed the scene and clicked a picture of my taking care of the milk.
Had she not seen my doing the job perfectly on the previous evening, she wouldn’t have entrusted next day, the job.
But the culprit was the electrical stove, whose on off press buttons were on the top and I couldn’t differentiate between those. In a split second, the milk started bubbling, I got confused. The gas stove outside had on- off knobs and I’m an expert in handling those.
Many times I don’t get opportunities to exhibit my skills, but when those come, something or other happens and stops my success. As Ammalu says, Suthippodabam!- the effect of evil eyes has to be removed!
Or, the Stars don’t want me to come up?

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Thayir Sadam and vadumAngai – curd rice and mango pickle

This is between us. My children take me to all types of eating houses in America- Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese etc. Even to an Ethiopian restaurant they took me once. I do enjoy different types of cuisine and varieties of wine, including blue and hot wine, my son in law ordered for me once, though Margareta from any Mexican restaurant is my favorite, not from an Italian restaurant.
During my four years in the college, I have eaten only from one restaurant, next to GVC. The owner Krishna Iyer was a smart guy. His close relatives, an Athan and an Ammanchi helped him in the business. Athan was a sober man like theimage dahivadas, fair, soft, floating happily in the shining oval stainless steel vessel. Ammanchi, the younger one, enjoyed my speeches from the hotel, the microphone aimed at the Mannathu Padmanabhan Nair gate, asking for vote for X or Y or at times for myself, for the post of office bearer of the Student union or a literary club.
During my bachelor days along with my other four room mates, I used to walk 14 miles, to and fro Secunderabad Taj, only for dinner. Whenever we went to Secunderabad, garam Chai from the Irani restaurant by the Secunderabad Station, was a must.
After marriage, I used to hardly visit hotels, except for parties, which was not a regular affair.
Frequent visits to restaurants were only when children came on holidays. My eldest daughter in law( she was the only one then) organized a big party in a hotel, combining many events. Atuth’s and mine maiden visit to USA, ( he for higher studies, me as a tourist) Keshu’s birthday or his medical admission.
Wine was served to my younger brother, much to his reluctance, as he had become a semi- Siddar after reading and singing Siddar padalkal, sitting alone at home.
“How is it Chithappa?” Enquired affectionately, my DIL .
“Sukham illai”, he replied. Not that good!
We all believed him as his opinion on wine was authentic. He had lived in Goa for over five years!
Now, back to the core point.
With all that, at the end of the day, my preference is for a plate full of thayirsAdam assisted admirably by a few spoonfuls of vadumanghai. In MalayAlam , we call it kaduku manga, giving respect to the smell of kaduku or mustard powder, an important ingredient in its preparation,
“You came all the way to America for thayir Sadam and vadumAngai, Appa?”, my children will ask, if I share with them, my preference. Hence, I’m sharing the secret only with you.
Incidentally, brother Vicha’s ‘Sukham illai’ has become a catch phrase in our family. Even after 10 years, we remember that party and his crisp remark.
Sidhars and saints won’t talk much. But when they do, they say volumes, in a word or two, like one or two tiny VadumAngais giving me complete satisfaction along with thayirsAdam!

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imageSugiyan! It is ages since I had that snack with a sober look and subdued sweetness. In our house, it used to be prepared only for shradhams, along with ellurundais, uppitu etc. There were four shradhams in a year and we children had the benefit of enjoying Sugiyan that many times. After the loss of my parents I performed Parvana shradham for a long time till I had to switch over to HirAnyam under compelling reasons. No more Sugiyan.
Unlike appam or kozhakkattai, Sugiyan is not a neivedyam item for Poojas in my house.
After flattering her sufficiently with selected words, I asked her highness Ammalu once, ‘why not Sugiyan as neivedyam?’
‘Are we offering ellurundais to gods? ‘ .
I wonder how she is ready with a return question every time , instead of answering my question.
Sugiyan is not a fat, fair lady, like Kozhakkattai whose pride is mainly because she is the favorite of the God with a big belly. Every time she hears devotees calling Ganesa as ‘Modaka hastha’, she swells in pride. Suguian is a much humbler soul, though it has its distinct taste.
Recipe for Sugian:
Ulundu dal & rice in 4 to 1 measure. Grind as usual after soaking for 2 hrs. Consistency like bhajji mavu. Make coconut & jaggery poornam. Should not be sticky. Make small balls of poornam dip in the batter & fry.
A fellow who doesn’t take life seriously, who doesn’t strain much but takes events as they come, is called ‘Sugiyan’ in our Palakkadan bhasha.
‘Appu is a Sugiyan’ – that comment was about me, when I was a child, as I never worked hard for studies and was always roaming about in paddy fields and woods aimlessly.
Even today I’m a Sugiyan.
Thanks my net friend Thangam Murthi madam for the picture and Recipe and moreover, for providing me an opportunity to remember my good old friend, Sugiyan.
Sent from my iPad

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Elai adai

It was on my return trip after attending a music program in Tampa along with my daughter Aparna and her kids that my avaricious eyes happen to fall on her- a black beauty on a multicolored, golden- boarded, carton inside a movable, transparent-shuttered freezer in a Patel-shop. Mesmerized by her charm, I grabbed a dozen packets instantly and hurried to the car.
” Mesmerized by a beauty on a carton?” I see your eye-brows arching.
Relax; the golden letters on the carton read, ‘ Elai adai’.
Last time, I enjoyed that jack fruit – flavored, semi-hard, semi-soft, sweet snack, in a family wedding in Bombay, was almost an year ago. I served it to Moorthy, my college-mate, whom I had invited and there could not have been a better sweet dish to celebrate the meeting of an old friend . He was so enamored with her charm that he came out with a nice story and wrote more about the elai adai and my kadukkan than about what we missed in our relationship during the long lost years.
Company decides the quality. The association of chakkai varaatti, lifts up elai adai  above the nonmbu adai, in flavor and taste. Nonmbu adai is ideal for nonmbu and shines along with the yellow string. Elai adai is enjoyable always. And kudos to those mamis or pattis who selected vazhai elai, banana leaf for spreading the paste and also for their ingenuity in steaming them in a closed vessel. The steam simply stimulates the smell of the vazai elai and chakkai varatti and when the final product comes out , with a combined flavor, still maintaining their individuality, ah! aanandam, paramanandaham.
Verum arisi adai, is a village girl. Fair, shy and simple. Ffty years may be too long for you, but not for my memory. My Venku chithammai patty in Perinkulam, from whom I borrowed the phrase, ‘Pahavane sarnam’, used to spread the half-crushed, unadulterated, rice paste, on a thick iron fry- pan, make that even by pressing with her own shaky fingers mildly but her finger prints were visible when the adai comes out . Over that,  she places a small ball of fresh vennai, butter, just removed from an ‘uri’, a   mud-pot hanging in a corner with the support of three strings. I see before my eyes, after over fifty years, that ball of  butter slowly losing its shape, melting and oiling the surface of the adai. The butter sacrifices its shape first, then its identity to become a part of the adai to placate our palate and pacify our hunger. A sacrifice worth our praise.
verum arisi adai. is not a Verum, mere adai when it absorbs pure butter or when you allow it, the company of a small ball of brown, undai vellam.
Adai, as such, has its own attraction among our snacks and when that appears in different avatarams, each with a specific flavor, taste and shape, ” ha, enthoru sukham!’, as exclaimed by an Iyer boy who enjoyed Meghana’s food recently, during his debut visit to US, on official work.

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I venture to write on a topic which I am familiar with – ‘porulankai’- that moderately sweet, round, eatable stuff, which your mother or grand mother prepares to delight your palate. I am sure that, this is a topic of interest to all of us here.
Porulankai is not a ‘kai’ like thenkai, a seed or vazhakkai, a vegetable. It has nothing to do with podavalankai, though their names sound they are twin brothers. You know that they are opposite in appearance and character. I had a friend in my college, the Lab. attendant, Mathan panicker. He had nothing common with ‘mathan’, our pumpkin. That guy was lean like a ‘payar’ and tall like a panamaram, palm tree. Names can be deceptive often. Kunjukuttan was my classmate. He was neither kunju nor kuttan; was a Kumbakarnan in body-size and also in snoring. We often used to fight for the last seat in the last bench. So was another one, ‘Dayalan’ who was the most unkind, cruel friend, I ever had. He used to sit and weep in a corner when other children go near to wipe his tears, he used to kick them at their abdomen. Kicking at abdomen is one of the cruelest acts, as you know.
Back to my topic again. Unlike his cine- star-stylish, fragrant, rich girl friend, Laddu, Porulankai is not endowed with a glossy skin or tempting projections and curvy features . What pains me most is that, even the gods go by looks. Otherwise, why do they accept laddu for neivediyam and not porulankai. Even dark skinned, dull faced appam is accepted by them, probably because of the shiny skin,  but I am yet to receive porulankai as prasadam from any temple.
I am a Palkkadan porulankai, wheat skinned, hard to break and spicy in nature and my sahadharmini is Thekkan Maaladu, fair, frail and comely. Maaladu, as you know is a favorite item in Thiruvananthapuram area, golden- yellowish, soft to feel and breaks with a mild press. If you have a mamiyar from TVM, as I do, she might be bringing a dozen or two of those sandy, sweet balls when she comes to meet you. The problem comes when the stuff is too hard. The problem is for you and not for her. Her teeth, all, might be as strong as they were, when she brought out your wife to this world. And, what a wonderful product she has brought out! Long live mothers in law!
I did some research on Porulankai as I thought it would be more useful than many topics of our current discussion.  I took the assistance of my friend Seshu, from Ambasamudram, who has crossed all the samudrams (oceans ) in the globe, as the caption of a commercial ship, as the subject of study is as complicated as, ‘whether Brahmins should eat brinjal or not’. Bye the by, you know why bringal is not to be eaten by brahmins? Because, there is egg in it ! That is why it is called ‘eggplant’. You are shocked and are in a hurry to find out the prayachithams for gulping different dishes of eggplant. There are experts in our group to help you. The harm already done cannot be undone.
This is what Seshu says on porulankai:
“Porulankai is not  Palakkadan. Its origin  is Thanjavur, Kumbakonam or Mayavaram. It accompanied the migrants to the bank of the Kalpathi river, as one of the food items, safely stored in the ‘mootai’ or cloth bundle, hung on the shoulders of the ‘pilgrims’.( The word ‘pilgrim’ is used to satisfy his ego, as he has a paper on the first migrants to USA, later named ‘pilgrims’.)
The original name of this snack was porul valan kai – seed or substance full of ‘porul’ ( meaning, essence etc). What was that ‘porul’ ? Remember, our forebears had to undertake  an arduous journey on foot, lasting several weeks or months and  there was an urgent need to induct some courage into their blood so that they were bold enough at least to hiss if not to bite, while encountering  enemies en-route. The usual ‘thair sadam’,  innocent in looks and invertebrate in nature, was not the ideal food for that purpose, they realized. More over, like all  good things, its life is limited. So, in their wisdom, our worthy patties of yore, invented porulankai and added some chukkuppodi, powder of chukku or dried ginger into the dough so that the ‘satwa’ spice ingrains a bit of ‘Raajasa’ gunam or courage in their mail folk. This porul, ‘thathwam’ is the basis for the favorite snack to gain the name porulankai. It is the spice content that made it unfit for the consumption of gods., as the gods are ‘sathwiks’ and they eat porulankai only when they appear on the earth to kill demons.  ”
The Tamizhan Seshu’s thesis hurt my Palkkadan pride and here is my version:
Porulankai was indeed invented by a Palakkadan mami and it has derived its name from the word, ‘urulan’ in Malayalam, meaning round in shape.
It is now for the learned members of this group to discuss and derive at a conclusion on this important topic. Please also discuss how ‘paruppu thenkai’ got that name, when there is no thenkai, coconut, in it? We two here are busy here, breaking our head to find out how ‘cheedai’ got its name.

A website of Tamil/Malayalam speaking brahmins, should essentially discuss the uniqueness that binds the brahmins  together – daily rituals, festivals, periodical ceremonies, food habits etc. Therefore, Porulankai eminently justifies its place in this website.
Porulankai is sweet, but not sufficient enough for one to clamour after it nor does it induces fear in the minds of the diabetes brigade. Endowed with Blessings for long shelf life and sturdy physique, it may not have the seductive looks of Ladu or Halwa, as Shri Perinkulam laments. And yet, as we all know, plain Jane always make a better bride than coquet Caroline. Long shelf life makes it an ideal companion for distant journeys. Its other virtues are that it is dry and not sticky and hence parceling is easy. It does not boast of Atthar’s aroma nor can one condemn it as stinking snowball.
Porulankai certainy owes it origin either to Thanjavur or Thirunelveli and certainly not Palakad.
Thanks to Shri Perinkulam, the son-in-law of my Thiruvananthapuram, for provoking me.


Dear Siva anna
What an excellent write-up on a sweet bomb that is relished by one and all for its hardness, flavour and taste….’Poruvalangai’?????  Its indeed a difficult sweet to make, but if eaten in the afternoon around 4 PM at TEA time, it cannot be beaten by anything.
I should really admire and appreciate the topic that you have chosen to write about when the serious discussions on child marriage, when to perform Poonal and what not to eat or how many times Sandhyavandanam in the forum.
When I told my daughter about the impending marriage decision to be made at an age when the children are just kids…….’she says its nothing but kiddish’.  How can the parents decide on their young ward whose horoscope itself is not done yet, but think about marriage alliance……?  Is not it ridiculous?  Are we going back to the stone age or 18th century?  What happened to all the scientific developments and education that we gained over a period of time?  This is what they have learned??????
We brahmins are INDEPENDANT thinkers and can decide themselves but of course suggestions and advices are always welcome.  These old schools’ books of thoughts will never be accepted by youngsters of today.  But those who wish to continue, let them do so and are free to do so.  Let them not force them on others.  Today’s girls are SMARTER than the MENFOLK and will definitely have their own views on their life and we can only guide them in the right path not with force but with love and education.
I have been seeing in the forum which always advises what the women of our community to do, how they have to do, how their mothers did, what the present women not doing, etc. etc. and showing women always in a negative perspective.  Still the MEN EGO takes the driver’s seat in the community and in the forums as well.  WHY this kolaveri against our women where women are worshipped by one and all and above all by our Sringeri and Kanchi periava in the form of Goddess Saradambal and Kamatshi?
If a boy did not get alliance, the next immediate bow goes against the girl and her mother.  What about the mother of the groom?  Still how many atrocities these so called husbands and their mothers carryout against the new woman of their house / life?
When I go thru the matrimony, many grooms based abroad write “presently on assignment in XXXX place, will go back after 3~4 years to be with my parents”…… so the girl has to forget about her parents [both girl and boy are shown equal love and education without any parity].  I am reading in many Ladies forum, how the husbands’ mind and behaviour change once they see their parents / esp mothers in a weird way?  If he is not level headed and be neutral why do they even get married?  Let them be a bachelor……
Why every one wants a simple, slim, fair, respect to elders, domestically trained, employed girl as wife / DiL……….. and what not to treat her like a product life long without any respect?
With the heated topics making rounds, its a SIGH of RELIEF to read the mail on a very common sweet Poruvalangai with humour…………is an icing on the cake.  I loved the intro given about your class mate and friend too in the discussion.
Its beautiful and thanks again.
Kind Regards
Shanti Subramanian

April  2, 2012
The article porulankai is enjoyable.
A joke to relish
K S Subramanian
Hello Mr. Sivasubramanian, let me add something to your mail. I am sure the original name must have been PORUL VILANGA URUNDAYI!! to prove its mysterious appearance, taste, hardness etc.