Saturday, September 11, 2010

Of Paayasa and Pancha-khajjaya

Unabashed. That is how I shall talk about the very first festival I celebrated in an almost traditional way this year. Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most important festivals for us Hindus. At home, festivals are more about the feasting than the praying bit, considering how Appa and I are near agnostics, at best. But tradition is what I cherish a lot, the whole ritual of eating after everything is offered to God first, the whole idea of the festival and its stories.

I remember when as a kid, the smells and sounds from the kitchen were so tempting that I would sneak behind ma and try to at least dip a small finger and lick the paayasa. I don't remember succeeding though, ma would always catch me. I would help decorate the offerings and take great pride in blowing the conch, being the resident expert in doing so! Quick prayers, new clothes, the sounds of bells, fragrant agarbhathis, the conch, and a large, large feast, that is usually a festival for me.

This year, I wasn't able to go home. There are two things I absolutely loathe in life: being alone and without family around when I am very sick and during festivals. I get terribly depressed and sulk all day and throw tantrums over the phone. This month, both things happened and suitable days were spent sulking.

But in a bout of inspiration, I decided to celebrate the festival in the traditional way and the result of some two hours of cooking was this, below. The chakkuli (savoury) was bought. The rest of the menu was Chitranna (coconut and lemon rice), Paayasa (coconut and a kind of dal kheer), traditional sambaar (vegetables and coconut) and Pancha-khajjaya (the powder in the steel bowl, the mark of the festival, made with five ingredients). Yes, lot of coconut. Brahmins in my part of the state use it for anything. I am nuts too about coconut, and have been known to have withdrawal symptoms if gone without coconut for too long.

Everything turned out great, if I may say so myself. The salt was just right, spices just so, the sweet there, but not too much.

All the cooking happened with me in a SAREE!! If you know me, you know that's a big deal for me!! :-) More than anything, ma was super proud that I was being all grown up and lady-like, FINALLY!!! The pride in her voice made it all so worth it. More than tradition itself.

The friends arrived with flowers that we used to decorate the door of my house. By the end of the meal, all that I made was eaten up. And I took it as a sign that they liked it.

To my horror, I also realized that I love wearing a saree and I quite enjoy cooking!!! Whatever this phase is, I hope it passes! LOL!!

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi, everyone! :-)


Ashley said...

The meal you prepared looks delicious!! I miss real Indian cooking. The vegetarian kind where you use ghee and local spices. That's almost impossible to find in the US. Someone will screw it up with a vegetable oil or make chappatis out of American biscuit mix.

Deepa said...

Thanks Ashley!
Chappatis with biscuit mix?? Seriously??? Whoa!!!

But don't you get the spices in Indian stores there? Let me know if you are interested, will share some very simple recipes that are very South Indian, and easy to make.