Hunger pangs and podis and aunts with magic wands!

Hungry kyaa? Pizza kha… ya Maggi kha… ya chips kha….
More and more choices, less and less nutrition… What happened when parents 20 or 30 years ago heard the perennial, “Mom, I’m hungry” cry? Trying to think back and I’ve got as far as murmura, chikki, fruit or just a “wait till dinnertime, it’s a few minutes away” (seemingly hours to tummies reaching a crescendo of hunger). Of course there was always the bit of leftover rice that could be had with a pickle or curd or a… podi – my favourite! For some weird reason, i loved podi rice with ghee and … hold your breath… soggy appadams! Something about trying to hold up flagging crispness was manna to my tongue!
Down the lane from where we grew up, there was an old (she might have been anywhere from 30 to 70 but anything above 20 was ‘old’ to 10-year old eyes!) widow who supported herself and her son by making appadams and podis – known to us only as the ‘podi mami’. I wonder how many thousands of such women lived by the skill of their cooking back then – brave souls. My mother was one of her biggest customers – particularly for “menthikootu podi” – with 3 perpetually hungry kids and a phalanx of relations always visiting, the podis ran out as fast as they came in! My brother Anand was one of the biggest depredators, as I remember…
For years after we moved away, I used to dream of this podi (I did, really – how the heck could any diet have a chance of surviving with me???) My mother’s culinary skills, such as they were, did not extend to this piece of art and no one else seemed to know or care even, about it. Till about two years ago, when I was talking about it (that’s step 2 after dreaming, btw) and my youngest aunt – Indu – said she made it all the time! Talk about traveling the world to find the pot of gold in your own backyard!! Since I said I wanted it RIGHT THEN, Indu aunty obliged me and gave me the recipe for it!! Strike 2!
Here’s my pot of gold – really looks like powdered gold too, btw!
Menthikootupodi (menthi hittu)
Chana dal – 2 cups
Asafoetida – 1 cm piece
1/4 cup coriander (dhaniya) seeds
4 red chilies
Cumin seeds – 14 cup
Rice – 1/4 cup
Wheat 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp
Fenugreek (methi) seeds – 1/4 cup
Salt – about 1 tsp
Roast each of these (except turmeric) separately and powder together along with the turmeric into a fine powder. Cool and store in a bottle. Mix together 1 tsp with a handful of rice and 1/2 tsp of ghee to serve as an appetiser or an any time snack.
You can also mix 2 tbsp of the powder with 1/2 tsp tamarind paste and 1 tsp jaggery to make an instant no-cook ‘pulusu’ or gravy.