Tamil: Culture and Cuisine

Brindha Vinodh

On a feather-soft green banana leaf,

         jasmine-smooth white rice, staple food

of the native region,

          topped with a dollop of ghee,

 

aromatic sambar from farm-fresh vegetables and smashed yellow lentil for the dancing pink tongue,

 

    tomato-pepper-cumin rasam

to digest and balance the heaviness of an elaborate meal,

  there’s an art of eating it-

 building a small pond with the grains of those white rice

with hand and filling it with the watery consistency of rasam

which amateur eaters on a banana leaf might find difficult-

famous now 

in the name of mulligatawny soup,

 

spicy potato and a mild, mixed vegetable 

curry garnished with coconut-the juxtaposition 

of anger and peace,


an exquisite blend of the skinny cluster beans and pulse called parupu usili

and a pumpkin stew and two pachadis- sweet and salty-

with yogurt as the base,

curd, sweet payasam and a hot red pickle,

mirroring the shimmering heat of the topography-

the culmination of all flavors of life

and the essence of togetherness,


the splintering sound of crispy applams,

akin in appearance to tacos,

and toothsome medhu vadais(try restricting to one and you will fail),

 

a typical Tamil Nādu wedding menu, 

invitingly teasing to the taste buds-

food here is an amalgamation of emotions,

a belief that generations propogate like the

rhizomes of a banana plant signifying lineage…


it’s not over yet-

steaming bubbles of a hot filter coffee,

 

            full-moon idly for all ages-

from babies to adults

from the diabetic to the daily commuters

from the rich to the poor-

a great leveler,

like ‘sickness’, to quote G.B. Shaw, but these idlies are ideal for the sick

and the natives never get sick of eating them,

 

fenugreek-flavored brown-boat dosas, soft or crispy, your choice,

     green-chilly, coriander and curry-leaf mixed

 cotton-textured bondas

with spiced, sesame-seasoned podi and chutneys

accompany anecdotes and conversations…

 

with variations infused in restaurants,

fusion foods

 and

cuisines connect cultures

these days,

bridging the past and the present.

***

 

Glossary:

Sambar rasam pachadis payasam- liquid or diluted in texture or consistency
parupu usili applams medhu vadais idly dosas bondas podi- solid in texture or consistency

 

Author bio: Brindha Vinodh is a poet, writer, blogger and a former copyeditor. She has contributed to several anthologies and been published on several international magazines, e-zines and journals. She has recently released her debut poetry book titled “Autumn in America & other poems” through Setu publications, Pittsburgh, Usa.

 Her recent achievements include commendable mentions in two categories, “Poet of the year” and “critic of the year” for 2021 in Destiny Poets’ International community of Poets (ICOP) Wakefield, UK.  Born and brought up in Chennai, India, she currently resides in the United States of America with her husband and two daughters. Incidentally, she also holds a masters’ degree in Econometrics from the University of Madras.

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