Diary of Hobbitt

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Mission Aappam"

Today morning I made aappam and vella thengaipaal (coconutmilk with jaggery in it) to go with it.Aappam is a delicacy which is made in most south Indian homes. It is a variation of dosa,-soft & fluffy in the centre and thin & crisp at the edges. It is also prepared in a slightly different way. Traditionally aappam is served with sweet coconut milk. Once upon a time, especially in Chennai and Madurai ,there used to be streetside aappam sellers doing brisk business in the morning. Today , however this street side favourite is served in most restaurants in Tamil Nadu.

While aappam by itself is quite harmless, the same cannot be said about coconut & the milk that is obtained from it- a 'must-avoid'for those whose cholesterol levels ( needless to say ,the bad one of course!) maintain an all time high ! Making aappam at home is a rare event what with my better half taking every care to keep his cholesterol level in check ! However aappam being a favourite , once in a while he likes to take a break from 'keep in check cholesterol level' measures and relish aappam !

Armed with my mom's recipe (handed down to me some 30 years back and which I look up everytime I make aappam- I must confess , I simply do not remember any recipe which I make once in a blue moon !), I embarked on "Mission Aappam " with great fervour ! Took equal proportions (1/2 cups) of raw rice ,idli rice (also called ukkada chawal ), urad dal and a tsp of fenugreek seeds (methi dana)and soaked all of them together for 4 hrs (even 2 hrs will do- I went out -hence , longer the number of hrs soaked !). removed, washed and ground batter to a fine & slightly watery consistency, and finally left it overnight to ferment. Next morning 20 min before making aappam, I added a pinch of cooking soda to the batter and stirred it thoroughly.(In the olden days, the streetside aappam sellers used to add toddy to the batter .) This is done to ensure fluffiness & softness .

Next morning I started the IInd phase of "Mission Aappam"- i.e. making thengai paal or coconut milk . Broke one coconut and grated it. Adding just enough water to it I ground it in the mixi . Removed the coconut and pressed it thru a sieve to extract the milk. Put back the coconut in the mixi and repeated the procedure. Voila ! the coconut milk was ready.I still remember my childhood summer vacations spent at my grandparents ancestral house in south. The cook would grind coconut in the aattukal (grinding stone )to extract milk . Counting uncles, aunts, granparents , & cousins , there must have been at least 25 in all at any given time during summer vacations !, According to traditional recipe sugar is added to the coconut milk. However, I have devised my own recipe of adding jaggery to the milk instead of sugar. For this I boil 1/4 a glass of water and when it starts to boil I add jaggery (about 1/2 cup or more , as preferred ) and let it dissolve . I then pour this into coconut milk. (Coconut milk should not be boiled or it might get spoilt.) I then crush 4-5 cardomoms and add to the mixture. Now the thengaipaal is ready. (a word of caution- do not drink too much of it by itself -it tends to have an intoxicating effect ! A friend of mine commited that mistake and spent the day in a state of stupor ! )

Ideally to make appam one needs aappam pan(a special kind of kadhai with handles on either side& a lid) Nowdays one can get teflon coated aappam pan in the market. If not, one can make do with any kadhai. Placing the my non- stick aappam pan on flame and greasing it slightly, I poured the batter in the centre and immediately holding the handles I swiveled the pan to allow the batter to spread evenly around. Covered the pan with the lid, kept it on low flame. Within a minute the aappam was ready- soft & fluffy in the centre and crisp around the edge. I gently removed it from the pan with a wooden spatula.

Taking a porcelain bowl, I placed the aappam and poured the coconut milk over it and served it to my better half & my offspring. "That tasted good. The aappam simply melted in the mouth and the coconut milk tasted yummy, amma" remarked my jigar ki tukdi ,an ardent fan of my cooking. As for my better half ( he belongs to the silent type and only voices comments if the food is !not up to the mark !) I knew he enjoyed it too ,for he had more than his usual quota ! That made my day!

As for me, I too relished aappam & thengaipaal ,trying not to think about my ever present companion- Diabetes !

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blogcamp Mumbai-Mukesh Patel School of Tech.Mgmt & Eng

Today I attended my first blog camp and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a refreshing experience to meet & talk to young people .I shared my blogging experiences and was pleasantly surprised when several people in the audience actually asked me questions.I do feel good !

It was interesting to hear others like Kalyan, Sunoj,Sanjukta, Pragni and others share their views and experiences. All in all an enriching experience !

Hats off to those who worked hard to make this event happen. Thanks guys !

Thursday, February 18, 2010

One Marriage - Two ceremonies !

Its been a while since I last wrote a post-almost a year long sabbatical !

Recently a very close family friend's daughter ( Hindu ) got married to a Goan Christian and we attented the wedding at Hyderabad (our friends being from Andhra ). The rituals were held according to Andhra tradition and the groom (and his family ) went along with it with total involvement. The poor couple were subjected to long drawn rituals (like all Hindu weddings ! ). The charming groom kept a pleasant and smiling face all through the ceremony - in fact it was the beautiful bride who got irritated with certain rituals. One of the rituals required the couple to look at each other- the priest ,unable to suddenly switch from Telgu to English blurted out "pass glance " ! That certainly amused the guests and totally embarrassed the couple ! After the ceremony was over the couple accompanied by the priest (and of course a whole lot of relatives and friends ! ) went out into the open. The ritual required the couple to look at "Arundhati' star, pointed to them by the priest, and vow to be faithful to one another. By now , the couple were totally exhausted & fed up of the rituals-" Even if you don't see anything , tell him you can see it.I am going to say the same " whispered the bridel to groom.

A few monthe later the couple had a church wedding with the bride looking radiant in a flowing white silk and pearls wedding gown, complete with a tiara perched on her head. A simple ceremony in the church followed by a well attended reception followed by food & dancing ( as per the Goan Catholic custom) .

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sausages- Mystery unravelled

Sausages have always been a mystery to me - I have never ceased to wonder how a pig can becomea perfectly shaped tube . I used to think that sausages were part of a pig like pork (guess it has to do much with my being a veggi and hence the ignorance !). This mystery was finally solved when (as usual )I sat down to watch BBC Food channel.

The programme on at that time ,once again (see reference to Crocodile steaks ) was Off the Menu . The chef mixed together minced pork, cream , beaten eggs , salt, pepper and chopped parsely -the result being a thick stuffing. What came next was the key to the mystery !. He took out what looked like a thin string from a bowl of water and voila ! The string turned out to be a micro shaped tube which he opened out by attaching it to the pipe and filling it with water. He then emptied the water so that the tube was fully blown out. He then attached it to the snout of a a machine . His assistant then fed the pork stuffing into the machine so that the it came out of the snout and went straight into the tube. After filling the tube (now it definitely resembled a sausage ) , he twisted it at different points and sliced the big tube into small sausages . The sausages were then shallow fried and served with mashed potatoes and caramelized sauce !

Amazing , what all goes into making sausages- and I thought it came straight from the origin of ham and pork ! Moral of the story - always be well informed or face ridicule !

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

March Of Time- Radio & Television

Time was when as kids we would listen to jingles on the radio and sing along whenever we heard them - I still remember the famous Glycodin syrup ad , which went something like this - " mummy had a coughing fit, dear dear me ,All day all night ,dear dear me, Glycodin will make it go ,just you wait & see, la, la , la la, la la" (oops forgotten this line) "glycodin for me ! ". The there was the famous Lifebuoy ad - Tanduristhi ke raksha karta hai Lifebuoy... " which one still remembers when one sees Lifebuoy soap ! All these ads belonged to an era much before the advent of the television.

A major development in the area of entertainment was brought about with advent of the idiot-box - today's kids would be hard put to believe that there was a time when television did'nt exist in Indian homes! TV medium being part of All India Radio , programmes were decided by it and even telecast would begin only in the evening and wind up in the night -24 x 7 just did not exist ! I still remember eagerly looking forward to Chitrahaar every Wednesday evening and a movie every Sunday evening. Television sets being expensive ( by those days' standards ) , owning a TV set was a big thing ! Parents also did'nt suffer from anxiety about children neglecting their studies to watch TV, simply because the number of programmes were not many (most of them were in fact quite boring e.g krishi darshan ) and neither was the duration of telecast very long . It was no different when Indian television went for a makeover ,changing from black and white to colour- By now Doordarshan ( as it came to be called ) increased the duration by having some programmes in the morning as well on Sundays and a few hours in the afternoon on weekdays. The nation got hooked on to watching "Hum Log" (India's first ever daily serial ) , followed by Ramayan and Mahabharata- simutaneously Doordarshan encompassed the entire nation and not only the big metros. By now companies vied with each other to sponsor programmes and thus came into existence, ads on tv too ! Some of them like "Washing powder Nirma, doodhi se safedi " , Lalithaji 's Bhai Saab "( Surf ), "such much kaafi bada hai " (Okay Bathing soap), "Utterly Butterly delicious"(Amul Butter), "Char Boondon wala " (Ujala whitener) cannot be forgotten .

With the advent of satellite TV, visual technology progressed by leaps and bounds and today 24x7, multichannel technology has brought about a whole change in the concept of TV viewing . On the negative side it has spawned a whole lot of undesirable traits- eye disorders, corruption of young minds , division among family members ( each one wanting a different channel) which in turn has led to multiple sets in one house with each member viewing his/her favourite channel within the confines of one's own room !!

With technology progressing over the years , ads on TV have also become more and more sophisticated. With fierce competition among companies advertising their products, companies are out to make more and more innovative ads and with a view to woo and impress their target audience are leaving no stones unturned in their efforts - there are funny ads (e.g gillette shave gel, Motorola's new model cellphone , ), cute ads ( hututu-brand Horlicks or some such other drink meant for hyperactive kids with harassed moms), musical ads ( with Airtel scoring high above the others in its signature tune ), stupid ads which fail to have any connection with the product being advertised ("Don't be a balti "-still have to figure out what the ad is trying tp convey ! ). Business ethics seem to have gone down the drain as some companies try to run down rival company's product by making a spoof of the latter's advertisement - recent case being the cola wars. Looks like companies either have nothing new to say about their product or lack the imagination to promote their own product !

There are somethings in life , which even with progression will never die- this applies to the humble radio also. TV tech . may have progressed rapidly ,but the common man will still never cease to listen to radio - with more and more FM channels increasing day by day , the common man is equally hard put to choose which music channel to listen to. For him it is equally difficult to choose a FM channel to listen to as it is to select a channel to watch on TV !

In the meanwhile the advent of commercials on TV & radio has spawned an entire generation of jingle singers - the tiny tots pick up jingles and along with it become experts at knowing which chocolate, or which drink , will fetch a complimentary gift if bought - the outcome of this is that most parents are harrassed into buying a particular product just so that a pencil , or a game or a comic follows as a complimentary gifts. During my childhood the only such complimentary gift that existed was a charm bracelet that came along with Binaca toothpaste- as for parents being compelled to buy , mum was the word ! We never even dared to voice our choices ! Parents made their own decisions , and we children simply went along with them , for we were the generation that were drilled into following the rule -"children should be seen, not heard " !

As with all other things the march of time has also brought in its wake an evolution in behavioural pattern of children - "children should be seen, not heard " generation has given way to a " children should be heard and seen " generation, so much so that parents often rush for medical help if their child does'nt exhibit these traits .

Its amazing how much influence ever changing technology has on the pattern of human behaviour

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tears For the Crocodile

" Watch & Learn" programmes have become rather popular with viewers today , what with even food habits having gone global ! This has created a rush among all the channels to include a cookery show as part of their programmes. BBC has even come out a channel solely devoted to the art of cooking , known as BBC Food .

While most Indian channels show a variety of veg as well as non-veg dishes prepared by master chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal , Mallika Badrinath , to name a few , BBC Food channel has shows devoted to mostly non veg cuisine with a sprinkling of veg cuisine-( not that anything is wrong with that of course ). Being interested in anything that concerns food ( even though personally I am a die-hard vegetarian ! ) , when time permits (yes, surprising as it may seem to some folks, even we housewives are hard pressed for time ! ) I watch programmes based on cuisine delights- veg or non-veg - Indian cookery shows , to learn new veg recipes & BBC Food channel out of sheer curiosity (its unbelievable -what all creations are dished out in the name of food ! ) . My offspring thinks I am weird ! She is simply at a loss to understand how a pucca shakahari ( veggie- to those unfamiliar with this term ! ) like me can sit in front of the TV and watch with rapt attention and fascination all those unfamiliar non-veg dishes being prepared , without feeling queasy most of the time !

To make a long story short , one summer evening , I switched on BBC Food channel to see the host of the show introducing a master chef of a famous restaurant in Johannesburg. Curiosity kindled to the peak I waited to see what was in store for the next half hour . I was not disappointed in the least- the recipe of the day was Crocodile steaks ! Visions of the carcass of the poor creature being displayed to viewers drifted in my imagination as I waited with baited breath ! Of course no such thing happened - instead the chef took out a rectangular piece of flesh ( "fresh and succulent " were the terms he used to describe it - sounded quite ghastly to me . ). He laid it flat on a chopping board and proceeded to literally "hammer " it (with a metal kitchen hammer ) - " to make it flat and even " as he put it. Next he spread honey and butter on the meat and over this arranged chopped pineapple pieces , red chillies, salt , & pepper ! With all the ingredients in place he made a roll and straight it went into the grill . After a while , Voila, the steaks were ready -,brown & crisp and ready to be served ! He then arranged the steak on a plate keeping a boiled egg on top , batter-dipped -fried prawns on one side , parsely , spring onions,& baby-carrots on the other side, "to add a dash of colour " as he put it . Inviting the host to taste it he offered the steak - " mmmm....... this does taste delicious " commented the host taking a bite - no doubt he must be saying that for every dish that he tastes on this show !

As for me - my stomach lurched over and I shed tears for the crocodile - heartfelt tears and not CROCODILE TEARS !

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Big Three - Kollywood (Tamil film Industry) Movies

Way back in the 60s Tamil films were dominated by the big three namely Sivaji Ganesan, MGRamachandran (or MGR as he was called ) and Gemini Ganesan (known in the north more as Film actress Rekha’s father ). Each had his own style and also his own fan following. Film related activities being predominant in Kodambakkam ( a Chennai Suburb ), Tamil Film industry came to be referred as Kollywood .

Even today Tamil Nadu is associated with film crazy crowds who make giant cutouts of their favourite filmstars and sometimes even build temples dedicated to these actors ! As a young girl, during the family’s annual trip to meet all the relatives down south (all the way from Delhi ), I used to be fascinated by these giant cutouts so prominently displayed on Beach Road - the Big three smiling down at the population crowding Marina beach.

Coming to the Big Three, all three were referred to not by their names but by their titles. Thus Sivaji Ganesan was known as Nadigar Tilagam (or an actor par excellence), MGR as Puratchi Thalaivar ( revolutionary leader- since he was also into politics and since his films always had some social message ) and Gemini Ganesan as Kadal Mannan (King of romance)

Sivaji Ganesan was no doubt an actor past excellence, but sometimes had the tendency to overact emotional scenes. It was every film actress’s dream to act opposite him. His fan following came mostly from the more affluent class . His acting was such that he would mould himself into the character with such conviction that the role would come alive . In an age when no hero would consent to acting in a negative role for fear of losing fan following, Sivaji acted in the role of a spy who betrays his own country in one movie, and a husband who murders his wife in the movie Pudiya Paravai. His acting skills were honed and polished with several of his outstanding performances in movies like Navaratri ( where he acted in nine roles) which was remade in Hindi as Naye Din Nayee Raat (an equally outstanding performance by the late Sanjeev Kumar in the same nine roles), Gauravam, Thanga Padakkam, Tillana Mohanambal , Pudiya Paravai , Bhagapirivinnai,etc. Even today the current generation of heroes in Kollywood try to imitate his style of acting . One of his very last movies was Devar Magan in which he acted in the role of the rigid patriarch of the devar community, who has differences with his son who wants to settle down abroad ( the role of the son played by the very versatile and talented Kamalahasan ). This movie was also remade in Hindi as Virasat.

The other one of the Big three was MGR. Now MGR had a very huge fan following. His movies appealed more to the masses rather than to the elite. His movies were always packed with action, romance ,beautiful outdoor locations and melodious songs (most of them turning out to be hits ) and would always end with the triumph of good over evil. Another important factor was the social message that would be conveyed - in this regard everything ideal would be there - in some movie he would be the modern day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he would always be the ideal son always loving,& respecting his parents, the ideal brother, the ideal union leader fighting for his fellow workers - in fact the ideal human being with no vice ! The love for his mother , and the country would be one of the highlights of his movies. He would have several girls swooning over him, but being the ideal man he would love only the heroine and treat all other women as his sisters ! However, his brotherly feelings towards other the other girl would be revealed only after a dream sequence(apparently in the girl’s dream ! ) in which he would shown romancing her ! In the scene when the girl conveys this to him , he will turn around say ” Nee ennudaya thangai pol ” ( You are like my sister )! Immediately the “sister” will break into sobs and cry “ Anna ” ( elder brother )! As such MGR had no great acting skill - it was his portrayal as the ideal hero and his cultivated interaction with the masses (he had affiliation with the DMK the regional political party) that kept his position. It is said that on the day of his film release women from slums would pawn their mangalsutra to buy ticket for Vadiyaar’s (teacher) movie-first day first show. Some of his hit movies were Adimai Penn (costarring former chief minister Jayalalitha), Ulagam sutrum Valiban, Rickshawkaran (which was remade in Hindi as Rickshawwala).

Both Sivaji and MGR were cast together for the first time in the movie, Koondu Killi (caged parrot ) with the hope that the movie would be a big hit - hit it was alright, but a hit to the financial status of the guys who put money into making it ! The makers almost went bankrupt. It so happened that it was the story of two brothers, in which the younger one is irresponsible for which he is reprimanded and beaten by the elder brother- the elder brother’s role being enacted by Sivaji Ganesan, had him berating and beating the younger one (enacted by MGR ). This scene created a furore in the theater with fans of both film actors going in for a free-for- all with each other and breaking the furniture that the theater had to be closed down and the film withdrawn from screening all over the state !

The third of the Big Three was Gemini Ganesan also referred to as Kadal Mannan. His movies were the romantic type. They were less action oriented and more mushy type. Love songs were a prominent feature of his movies. As romantic as he was in the movies he was equally so in real life - there were plenty of affairs and plenty of wives too ! It is said Rekha for a long time held a grudge against him for not having married her mother. It as also rumored that Rekha’s stand that she would never marry a married man stemmed from her own insecure childhood. He normally acted in the role of sensitive and gentle lover, wooing his heroine with songs. Some of his major hit movies were Kalyana Parisu (in which he is forced to marry the sister of the woman he loves (Saroja Devi) )! Konjum Salangai, (in which he acted with the beautiful Savitri whom he went on to marry ), Thenn Nilavu ( co- starring Vyjayanthimala).

The Big Three ruled Kollywood for more than two decades before yielding place to a new generation of actors, to new wave cinema and to a new breed of directors who created movies very different from those of 50s and 60s thereby bringing to end an era of stereotyped hero oriented movies. They however continue to be remembered for their acting even though they are gone, leaving only memories.