Of how to be grateful for small mercies!

I was approaching forty and nature was telling me (AND the whole world at the same time – indiscreet nature!) through the greying at the temples (other parts of the head too but temples are all I’m willing to acknowledge!) that it is winning! I decide to ignore it. I get an Indira Gandhi like streak. I am DETERMINED to ignore it!
In fact, I think (smirk, smirk), IT (streak), and by association, owner of IT, looks rather distinguished! People keep asking me why I don’t do anything about it. I shrug it off – they must be positively green that they do not share my distinguished-ness!
Then at a wedding, someone asks me why I look always tired! Having got my share of  ten hours beauty sleep, I am surprised! The next day, off we go – on a visit to the hairdresser! A couple of hours work at her hands and I am looking quite “new” as a two-year old nephew of mine remarked to his grandmom when asked if she looked old. His response was, “No, Ammamma, you look little old, little new!”
But the two hour trip convinced me of one thing – that I could NOT sit through another boring session like this one! And so I decided to try my hand at colouring at home. Not having a clear idea of how to do it, I enlisted reinforcements – in the forms of two daughters – one twelve and one eight years old. The pack of hair dye came with clear instructions but the manufacturers, not having gauged their market “correctly”, included only one pair of gloves.
Being well brought up kids (at that time at least), they had been taught how to share. So each had a glove and the other hand wrapped up in a plastic packet! Proceeding to divide up my head into “your half”  and “my half”, they have a ball – splashing it on – it’s not every day that you get a chance to wreak vengeance on the parents!
I protest. There’s goop on my neck, on my ears and on my shirt – I don’t want all these bits dyed! My eight-year old puts things in perspective by telling me very firmly, “Amma, be grateful we got 75% of it on your head!”
I shut up, mentally resolving to do it myself the next time. And I do, for many years, till today, when I ask daughter no.2  (now older and hopefully more skilled!) to do the deed as I’m too tired. She obliges… I am happy… yay, grown up daughter and all that. Then she remarks quietly the end, “There’s a little bit on your neck and maybe a littler bit on your ears… but it looks interesting… as though you have more hair!” Thank you very much.
On another occasion, my maid offers to apply it for me. Once bitten and so on… I ask if she knows how. “My husband is a painter, amma, and I’ve watched him at work, painting walls. How different can it be slathering it on your head?” Yeah, right!
All that talk of painting leads us to a dish from Kerala which is so fine and delicate texture that it’s almost painted on – to the pan! The unique
  • Raw rice – 2 cups
  • Parboiled rice – 1 cup
  • Poha/beaten rice – ½ cup- optional
  • Salt – 1 tsp –
  • Sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Yeast – ½ tsp
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup

Soak the “rices” together for 3-4 hours

Drain the soaked rice and grind along with all the other ingredients to a very fine batter, adding water as necessary to make a very smooth, flowing batter.
Cover and leave to ferment overnight till it almost doubles in volume.
Heat an aapa kadhai or a non-stick wok and sprinkle a few drops of oil. Smear the oil. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the hot pan. If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough.
Pour a ladleful of batter in the centre and swirl the pan around so it spreads into a thin, painted-on sheet! There will be a little more at the centre.
Cover and cook for a couple of minutes till you can see gold at the edges of the appam. The centre will be a soft, slightly thicker blob and the edges are lacy!
Gently remove and serve immediately.
Like my head being divvied up for “painting”, I am always torn between the two accompaniments which are my personal favourites for this – vegetable stew – “ishtu” and sweetened coconut milk – so most often, I end up having both!
For the sweetened coconut milk, add a couple of tsps of sugar and whole, slightly pounded cardamoms to 1.5 cups of coconut milk.
For the ishtu, please see my recipe in an earlier post – follow this link – http://anuchenji.com/blog/early-lessons-narayani-v-nayak-and-baser-instincts
You could also serve this with a kadala curry – black chana curry – look out for the recipe in future posts!
And please get two pairs of gloves if you’ve got two pairs of hands making heavy work!