Posts Tagged ‘life’

Happy 1st anniversary to the yum blog

The main ingredient in any food is love! That is why home cooked food is always much more delicious than outside food! 🙂 And that is why men think their mother and wife are the best cooks in the world!!And that’s why we think our grandma and amma are the best cooks! 🙂

My appa always used to complain that we always reserved the best dinner sets for some special guests! I always make sure that I use the best serving bowls and dinner sets when he visits me! 🙂

My amma knew the favourite dish of everyone in the family . She always made sure that she prepares it for us when we visit her.

After amma passed away many of our friends and relatives who could not personally visit us spoke over phone. One Mr. Prabhu, a family friend spoke about amma for almost 1 hour. During one of his visits to our home he had observed how amma served water for the family and visitors!

Amma always tied a pure white cloth to the tap in the kitchen. This was to avoid mud and any other dirt. She filled this water in huge vessels, boiled and cooled the water. The boiled water was again filtered using a water filter as there was no other water purifier available those days. She then filled this water in bottles and kept them to cool in the fridge. All this may sound simple. Serving water this way for a family of nine, with hordes of visitors, in a hot city like chennai  is’nt simple at all! May be she spent 2 hours every day just to serve pure water for the family! I am really amazed that our friend Prabhu observed  and remembered amma for this!

Better late than never! He He…..

Our first post in the blog was on 28th June 2007. Every recipe I have published are what I have learnt from my mother. All the recipes have been tried and tested umpteen times before they are posted. With 227 posts and 4.2 lakh hits ( that is on our blog anniversary) the support we have received has been overwhelming! We have more than 200 non bloggers commenting on the blog or mailing us! Many people land here looking for festival recipes.  I have already published the dates for various festivals this year on the side bar and promise to add more recipes as the festivals approach.

My favourite way to pass time is to just get forget myself seeing natures beauty! These days I spend atleast 1/2 hour every morning gathering and stringing Pavazhamalligai!


Pavazhamalligai string

Thank you, dear readers, for your support!


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Amma still lives in countless hearts!

Lakshmi has already paid tributes to her Patti! Then why one more post on amma? I have to share my sorrow with my friends! Other than routine cooking I am unable to do anything. I am just thinking of my amma all day long, day and night. I feel this post will help me to unburden my heart and get back to normalcy! Thanks to all my friends who spend their valuable time in reading this post!

My amma was a personification of Patience, Sacrifice and Unconditional love! I learnt much about her life during my teens. When we would sit together to clean rice in late afternoons, she would narrate some of the incidents that happened during her childhood and early married life. These prepared me to face and solve problems in my own life later!

She followed every word in the two kurals ( couplets):-

Inna seitharai ooruthal avar
naana nannayam seithuvidal!

Inniya ulavaga innadu kooral
kaniyerrupa kai kavarthatru!

The first couplet means, “When someone spreads thorns in your path, forgive and do good to them!”

The second one means, “Using harsh words while so many sweet ones are there is like biting a raw fruit while ripe ones are in plenty!”

My Amma with me and my children

Amma with me and my children

She became the oldest daughter-in-law of a huge family of sons, daughters and innumerable cousins at a tender age of 16 years. She took the responsibility of the whole family as my patti would be away most of the time helping her sisters and brothers. She kept the doors of her home and heart open to all my appa’s relatives, cousins and friends. She was the universal manni (Sister-in-law) to all his cousins. All of them have spent some time living in our home, some for days, some for months and a few for years. All this she managed while the family income was pittance.

What amazes me most is that she would calmly go about doing her work after being the epicenter of a tornado of abuses inflicted upon her. Even more amazing is the fact that she would do anything to help people who seek her favour unabashedly, after treating her badly! She was a real angel who was above all these petty things!

It is not as if she had only misery in her life. There are a lot of good people among those whom she helped. These people adore her for her fine qualities. I remember our days at Hyderabad where we had a big group of neighbours and friends. Anyone who needs help or advise during pregnancy,delivery or child care, she was always there for them! In fact she would offer help even before being asked and has stayed with many in the hospital during their delivery. She was an expert in infant and child care! As her daughter, I can proudly declare that she never raised her voice while talking to us, leave alone scolding or hitting children! No wonder all the children who were fortunate to be in her care, love and adore her! I think the time she spent caring for children, her own, her nephews and nieces or grandchildren were the most joyous moments in her life. The gleam in her eyes while preparing favourite laddoo or mixture for my son is etched in my memory! When she was around 60 years of age, she fondly knitted a double colour sweater for my son, that too with such poor eye sight!

She never had good eye sight, being blind in one eye and with just a hazy shadowy vision in the other. She had an astonishing ability to perceive and view things inspite of her disability. Most people lose their sense of direction while driving around or deep fry till food browns. My amma has never been directionally challenged on roads and no one can beat her in frying food till its just the right shade of golden and crisp.

I do not claim my mother was flawless. Her biggest flaw was that she thought being bold to protect ones own rights was a sin! She simply allowed people to exploit her! Another draw back was that she bottled up her sorrows, which burst out during the last few months of her life, when the physical pain overpowered her patience! Blessed are those who cared for her during her last days!

At 47 I feel I have neither understood myself or life! Since 27 years, that is after my marriage, I have hardly spent much time with my parents. May be two weeks to one month in a year. The agony I have experienced from last October, worrying about them is unbelievable! I knew amma was suffering and the end was near, but then it is so difficult to come to terms with reality!

Tears roll down my eyes when I think there was no one to help her when she suffered two abortions and two infant deaths during her teens!

Tears roll down my cheeks when I think there was no one to care for her when she worked till the last moment of pregnancy and went to the hospital all alone and waited in the corridor for my grandma before entering the labour room to deliver my eldest brother!

My only solace is that I could spend some time with her in February in the hospital, the only time she was hospitalised for sickness during her lifetime!

My amma used only two cosmetics throughout her life – turmeric pod or powder for the face, and kumkum for her big red pottu which she was very particular about. She wanted to predecease my Appa – she wanted to die as a Sumangali.

Her soul departed on the 10th of May 2008 at 3 pm. On the 11th of May, the skies burst into tears when her body was being taken for cremation. The Delhi summers had not seen the last of rains yet. The skies poured as if to condole the death of a noble soul for 4 days from the 10th day to the 13th day after her death.

When amma was hospitalized in February 2008, she would keep praying to Lord Venkateshwara, “Appane Venkatachalapathy, Yennai Thiruvadi Serthukko” (“O Lord Venkatachalapathy, Give me place at your feet”). On the 11th and 12th day of the ceremony we feed four brahmins. For amma’s 12th day, the purohit was able to find only 3 brahmins to feed. On his routine visit to the Vaikuntanathar temple by chance he came across a brahmin from Tirupati who readily agreed to accept our offerings. It was as if the Lord himself had sent his devotee for my amma’s last rites.



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Pizza – the saviour

Six months into starting my first job, the days became long and work became exceptionally frantic but fun. There were however exactly two major “not so nice” adventures that were as a rule present in my daily routine. One of them was the crossing of two canine colleagues from the main clinical facility where I worked to the staff quarters. A couple of feet in terms of distance, a thousand mile sprint in heartbeat terms. One of them, Simba, hated dogs, so if I was too careless about the door, I’d probably witness a massacre of dogs. The other one, Rosa, hated human beings, so if I was too careless about not being discrete while crossing, I’d be massacred.

The second adventure was a ritual called “having dinner”. My roomie and I spent more time deciphering what the food served exactly was. My dinner experiences at my work place made me say that the hostel food at the Tata Instiute of Social Sciences was excellent – so it was a real big deal to swallow such food.

I tried hard for days until I deliberated over various options available and settled in for a daily pizza dinner plan – pizzas are tasty, pizzas have vegetables, one could order them without cheese if one wanted to and most importantly one can never ever ever get bored of having pizzas.

My roomie and I have had a hundred pizzas together probably, no we never got bored and no we din’t really bloat all that much. We did however discover a few random holes in our bags and pockets.

The best thing about Pizza is that it gets delivered anytime, almost anywhere. Even when water is 6 feet deep and one needs to travel by a boat to deliver it. The organization I worked at was constructed in the middle of what used to a large lake once upon a time. The particular year of my joining work, the rain gods decided was the best year ever to fill up the lake once again. Yet inspite of all the incessant pourings, a million pot holes and water that was deep enough to make a Tata Sumo drown, our Pizzas were always delivered. We always ended up having a happy, satisfied, good dinner.
Yesterday I made Pizza from scratch for dinner. I borrowed the recipe from Raaga – and trust me it works like a dream. In Chennai heat it takes just about two hours, including rise time of dough to make Pizza. All a Pizza needs is some vegetables, some sauce, seasoning, dough, some cheese and a really hot oven. I used roasted red bell peppers, corn and onions for my toppings. I picked up something labeled as Ooty Organic Cheese – about 1/4 of a cup of this grated (6 tbsp approximately) made my pizza look like its been swimming in a cheese ocean!!

I exercised a great deal of self control to take these pics on my mobile before sinking my teeth into a crispy, gooey, chewy goodness called pizza.

Follow this link for the recipe.

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A Tribute to my Patti

My Patti (grandmother) was a phenomenal woman. It’s difficult to paint a picture of her with mere words. Her shiny ivory skin stretched over her chubby cheeks, complemented perfectly by a “vaira mookuthi” (diamond nose ring) on her pint sized nose and “vaira thodu” (diamond earrings) on her ears. She was round and incredibly cool about being round. Which is why I thought Gundu Patti would be a very appropriate name. And which is how I call her to this date. Overall she was this cute, hug-able, omnipresent granny who just waddled in and out of places.

She set very high standards in terms of quality of food – it had to be the correct consistency, the right colour, the perfect aroma. Her sweets and savouries were impeccable and had innumerable admirers. Anyone who’s tasted her ice cream cake will search a lifetime to replicate the taste but fail to do so. She put a miracle into everything she cooked. And all this aided by an impeccable sense of smell that told her when the sugar syrup was right and when the gravy was done. One couldn’t possibly miss the aroma in her cooking unless of course one din’t have a nose.

My Amma (mother) had to do quite a bit to become “as good as grandma”. I was so spoilt that as a toddler I routinely accused my Amma of ignoring me if she din’t keep a 10 different items on the table. That’s how much my Patti fed me; with cartloads of food and love.

As many “Maamis” of this world are, Patti was quite comical. Her most comical engagement was with cricket. I don’t know how she managed to get hooked on to the game and follow it. She couldn’t see what was happening on television for nuts, there was no way she could have followed the numbers on screen and she din’t know English to follow the commentary. And yet there were times when she knew what was happening to a detail that would make my jaw drop to the ground. But this isn’t the incredible or comical bit.

One of the last times that I saw her was in hospital, lying in a bed, shrunk to half her size, with injections being punched in every 30 minutes. Her Blood Pressure was at 240. I thought she was sleeping. And then I heard her ask, “Andha Australia adi adinu adikarane. Yethanavadu over?” (That Australia is hitting big time. Which over is it?). So that was how much she followed cricket.

The other comical thing about her was her handkerchief. Most of us are unlikely to remember our kerchief even in the most ordinary of circumstances but once Patti wanted to know where it was when her heart beat was giving an Olympian sprint a world record threat.

As a young child, I spent a lot of time listening to stories – real and fictional – that Patti told me. My best loved bed time story is the story of a 1008 Parrots repeated a million times over and over by my Patti till I went to sleep. She’d also tell me stories of her ups and downs, her happiest moments and her most difficult times. Of life and times in different places from Kokatta to Hyderabad. As a child I understood that living as a woman in her days and in her context wasn’t easy. She’d also fill me in with details of how she learnt to cook – starting from the backyard of her house as a child to experimenting recipes given to her by her father in law. One of those experiments when she was 16 and newly married, ended in a halwa that apparently stretched from the porch of the house to the backyard.

Over the past few years my conversations with Patti had greatly reduced to pleasantries and food related small talk – physically, mentally and emotionally, she had digressed greatly. Her last years were painful. It was difficult to see her struggle with her disability – her blindness that never seemed like a lack her entire life came to define her very existence in the last years of her life.

On the 10th of May 2008, Patti departed this world leaving behind a lifetime of good food, precious recipes and lots of love. All of our cooking and this blog is inspired by this great cook and exceptional woman – Vijayalakshmi Ranganathan. We pray for her best and know that she’s at peace.

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“Esref Armagan, of Ankara, Turkey, is a 53-year-old blind painter. Blind since birth, Armagan is a gifted visual artist who can draw and paint in three dimensions; drawing comparisons to Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, the first artist to master three point perspective.”

Read the rest of this at Thoughtware.tv. Vist Esref at armagan.com

My Patti is the chief inspiration behind all my cooking and my passion – for aromas; for achieving the right consistency; for serving with lot of love and for savouring good food. To quote from one of Amma’s (Latha – to save the confusion) first posts:

My amma is a typical Brahmin lady with her “as shiny as marble” skin, big red pottu, “vaira thoodu” (diamond studs), “vaira mookutthi” (diamond nose ring) and nine yard podavai (saree). Her expertise in the kitchen is legendary. She’s never had good eyesight, with one blind eye and a high power that no technology can counter in the other. Her culinary skills are so highly developed that she cooks with the aid of an impeccable sense of smell. So you can imagine how difficult it is to beat her standards.

This is the 200th post on our blog – and this post is dedicated to my Patti (grandmother in Tamil), an exceptional woman, a brilliant cook and an amazing artist in her own right.

In celebration of food, these few months of blogging and life.

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Wicked, Wicked Chocolate

This post is a tribute to Chocoholics (not so)Anonymous because – ummm – you’ll figure why by the end of this post.

The Kitchen is in reality a well concealed battlefield. I am not talking writing off topic here, this is where the story of my adventure with chocolate begins. And so, the kitchen is a rather deceptive battlefield, it ravages war on you when you least expect it; when you are deeply mesmerized in the wonderful dishes that you’re experimenting with everyday.

No brownie points for guessing that I am going to rant about my latest (mis)adventure in the kitchen that involved a character called chocolate. Extra brownie points for guessing that din’t have anything to do with the dish – anything with chocolate can’t go wrong in terms of taste.

I have a serious chocolate addiction – each time I see the word chocolate splashed across the computer screen, I yearn to have some. I am fanatical about chocolate, so fanatical that I can order a large portion of a dessert that is dunk in oodles of chocolate and call it dinner. I specially have a weak spot for sinful brownies and all brownie based dishes. So when Kamini posted her quest for the perfect chocolate brownie and I followed this up with some reading, I had to make myself a sinful chocolatey treat.

I have been wanting to try this recipe for Warm Walnut Brownie Pudding at Epicurious for sometime and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. The recipe was perfect with no need for substitution, I had all ingredients on hand and successfully put them all together into one yummy tasting cake batter that was so eager to be baked. For a change clever prepared me also made the chocolate syrup the recipe required in advance.

And so I took the perfect batter made from a perfect recipe in a perfect baking dish to put into my beloved oven. Splash!!! I have no idea what happened – I have been scratching and scratching my head, but my memory fails me. In an instant, half of the syrup along with half the batter was all over the kitchen. The baking dish with the rest of the batter (now mixed in parts with the syrup) was still in my hand suspended between my bewildered face and the open oven.

When I say “all over the kitchen” I mean literally all over. On all the racks, on top of the oven, near the sink behind me, on the floor, on the fridge, on all the washed and drained vessels and on the ceiling (I am not kidding, I swear there was a spot). Chocolate had invaded my kitchen. It was 11 pm in the night – my perfect baking time and not so perfect cleaning time.

Here’s a left over piece of the Warm Walnut Brownie Pudding. I did bake with the rest of the batter. My other half had dug into routine chunks from the kitchen and was at work on this last piece before I begged him to stop for a precious photograph for the blog.

Update: I have edited the photograph (original is here) for brightness to prove that the object pictured  isn’t a piece of meteorite. See there are walnuts on top.

Not a Meteorite

As you can see the pudding turned out, errrrr, rather flat – though it was the richest, most moist chocolate bake I have ever had.

It took me three hours in total to wash all dishes and scrub the kitchen. It took another two hours to organize the kitchen. But then we all know that the adages around “hard work” are stuff that fairy tales are made of – don’t we? Sigh, I was rewarded with the sight of a few spots of chocolate near the kitchen sink today morning. I am now firmly resigned to my “kitchen with chocolate spots” destiny. It’s been four days since the disaster and I can still smell chocolate in my kitchen – not that I mind, it’s the perfect antidote for my chocolate addiction. I am off chocolates for a while now.

The story doesn’t end here though. Now that I have shared my harrowing experience in the kitchen, I tag Asha (so what if you just did a few memes, please dedicate a post to this one), Hema (trying my friend’s tactic of waking up QTOL), Padma (have you ever ever gone wrong sometime?) and Raaga (tit for tat, you tag me, I tag you) to share their worst kitchen disaster and pass on the tag. The “Nightmare in the Kitchen” tag begins.

PS: Being off chocolate and other such claims are meant to be dismissed as lies – a big bag of lies. Just writing this post makes me want to go have some chocolate.

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