“Don’t eat with both your hands, paapa. Eat with only the right hand”.
And very gently, a large adult hand washes my left hand clean and shows me how to eat with the right hand only. It takes some doing, but i mastered it! This is one my earliest memories of life and the teacher is Mrs. Rajan Raju – “Aunty” – our neighbour and landlady and a second mother to me all my life… Aunty taught me to eat. An expert needlewoman, she taught me to to put in my very first stitches – large running ones of which i was immensely proud! With an extremely busy doctor mom, she was also the go-to person for all our small troubles. She sent me too all the “seeru” (gifts at auspicious ceremonies) for my Seemantham (a sort of baby shower) and a couple of months ago, when i visited her, insisted on packing me several kilos of her fabulous aavakai!
As always, while i pay tribute to people, the things that i remember are also to do with food! And so, my 3 year old’s memory has imprinted exactly what i was eating in my memory! Pappannam (dal and rice but made the Telugu way – with thick tuvar dal, loads of ghee and hot rice – a staple till was about 16 and a favourite even today! In fact, one of my colleagues when i first started working and we used to have communal shared lunches from our dabbas, after tasting my various “pappus” for several weeks- told me that the prices of dals had gone up solely because of my consumption! On another occasion, I had consulted a Kerala Ayurvedic doc for some tummy trouble and he gave me a looooong list of things i was not supposed to eat – to all of which i nodded – can do. At the very end, he said that i had to give up toor dal and eat only parboiled rice!! The Telugu in me rebelled and i told him anything but! Well, toor dal continued to feature on my plate and my tummy trouble disappeared on it’s own – my mind must have taken a hand in the healing after the shock of the doc’s strictures!
The moral of the story is that separating Andhra and Telangana is easier than separating a Telugu from her “pappu”!
For the past few weeks, i’ve been giving slightly challenging recipes – like the biryani recipe yesterday. Am going to make it up by giving an NRI-student type recipe – that’s the euphemism for “no-cook” or “almost no-cook” food!
Here’s a dal that can be had with rice or rotis or by itself and requires no more effort than boiling up the dal and enough knife skills to chop up an onion!
A very different dal: Zero-fat salad dal!
For when you really don’t have time to cook and can’t stand the idea of one more takeout!
1 cup cooked green gram dal (i.e. 1/2 cup pappu cooked with 1.5 cups water and a little turmeric).
Add to the dal:
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 tsp chopped kothimeera
1 finely chopped green chilli
1/2 lemon squeezed over it and salt to taste.
Mix it up and eat with your roti – hey presto – salad dal! – smoky taste of pesarapappu (moong), lemon and bursts of fresh onion, zing of green chilli!
Oh, and eat with whichever hand makes it tastier!