Of piety following on the heels of hunger!

Recently at the Chennai Lit Fest, I attended a discussion by three foodies and food writers – all professional chefs. The theme of the discussion was food memories. The audience appeared to be expecting memories of cooked food or home food but other than Aditya Bal who grew up in Kashmir and for him too to an extent, these memories seemed to consist primarily of food you bought – like 5-star chocolates (top rated), Kiss Me candies, kidney shaped confectionery (acid drops), Parry toffees in green and gold wrappers, long wads of “stickjaws” – extremely sticky peanut brittle (chikki) which shut you up more effectively than any mom ever could, pink “Phantom” cigarette shaped candies – which made you feel far cooler than the Marlboro man ever did as you nonchalently pretended to puff away!

Perhaps the fact that these foods had to be bought, which means actual money had to be obtained (a very rare commodity in our growing up years, i assure you!) and therefore they represented everybody’s Shangri-La is the reason those memories are treasured! How could an everyday sambar, no matter how delicious, hope to compete with a packet of Chiclets or the tangy, to-die-for fatafats?!

Got to thinking about home cooked foods which have the same effect and still my mind turns to the outdoors – the temple prasadams of which we sampled plenty. Much running around and playing every evening in the maidans meant that hunger pangs struck very early – too early for dinner to be ready. With no money or cupboards stacked with Maggi or Lay’s, necessity invented – piety!

Every evening, the Hanuman temple near our house saw an outburst of prayers from little ones – who came hoping the evening’s prasadam (food offering) to the deity would be pieces of coconut occasionally laced with pieces of jaggery. Being there, of course, we had to salve our consciences by praying and applying the fiery orange kumkum paste that is standard in Hanuman temples – the equation was simple – you went to the temple, got fed, of course you had to offer up prayers in thanks – no one could say we didn’t keep our part opf the bargain scrupulously!

Finally coming back to home moorings, one of the dishes that I have been trying to replicate for years – was a roasted wheat powder with sugar – which my mom used to make occasionally and which I absolutely loved. Couldn’t remember and didn’t know how to make till I got offered that as a prasadam at a temple one day… and there I was… all of seven years old again – inhaling the smell of roasting wheat against the background of my mom’s crisply starched cotton sari! 


  • Whole wheat flour – 1/2 cup
  • Grated jaggery or sugar or brown sugar – 2 tbsp – you can add more if you like it sweeter
  • Ghee – 1 tsp
  • Cardamom powder – 1 large pinch – optional
  • Cashewnuts/almonds/raisins  – 2 tbsp – optional

Heat the ghee in a large, flat saucepan and add the nuts and raisins if using. Stir fry on a low flame till golden. Add the wheat flour and continue to stir on a low flame till golden brown and smelling wonderful! If you are NOT using nuts and raisins, add the wheat flour straightaway to the ghee and roast. 

Take off the fire, add the cardamom powder (if using, the aroma of roasted wheat flour is lovely and you do not really need another aromatic) and sugar and mix well.

Serve hot – super snack for kids just come home from school. Though once in a while, it may not be a bad idea to NOT feed them – they might begin to develop a sense of piety – hard on the heels of hunger!

 (Pic courtesy: Internet)