Monday, September 19, 2005

Malluz Day Out!!!

Another unforgettable Onam has gone by. I am still reeling from its hangover and ksheenam...but i knew if this post made it out today it wud inspire me to make the next one even more grand. What made this one special and unforgettable for a long long time to come wuz how it made me feel so proud of our culture and how the homeland binds together such a lively set of youngsters into good friends. A week back our Onam looked set to end in mediocrity and marred by bad planning. Except for watching Pandipada at the indian theater on friday nite and a secret mini-potluck lunch for about 10 of us leaving a lot of our mallu pals itself out...nothing looked like materialising. But then tell me a mallu guy who can keep a secret...each of us unwitingly called up our other buds and word spread and everyone promised to cook something or the other! By friday night there were 25 mallus and 10 others we had to serve lunch too...the worst part wuz we were all amateur cooks in whose hands our great harvest festival and one of the greatest cuisines in the world wuz about to suffer a great humiliation.

Saturday morning began at a feverish pace. Sadly none of us planned to wear our mundu's coz of an uncle who got a ticket a few days back for indecent exposure when he went shopping after an onam celebration! We still didnt have vazhayila(banana leaves)...until my sis eavesdropping as always on me...let it out casually that she saw vazhayilas and the Food4Less where she went shopping yesterday...she saved my skin yet again as i had declared in imprudent bravado that i wud get the vazhayila without knowing from where. Rajay cooked sambhar, Giby made pulisseri, mathew and subhash cooked the toughest of the lot - aviyal, rohit made ari paayasam, abraham pappadam, philip cabbage thorran, abhiram parippu curry, reji made rice, sujith cooked pachadi and the other sujith's wife simi and my sis made two versions of payar thorran. I had volunteered to make my "special" chicken fry(dont ask me why chicken...the guys here have become such carnivores...that they cant sacrifice it for even a day...moreover that wuz the only thing i wuz confident of making after close to 9 months of inactivity on the cooking front!!).

Well this is the closest i will ever get to a cooking here's how i make my chicken...take it off the freezer...microwave it for 5 mins to thaw it...then apply a paste of tumeric, ginger and garlic to make it loose its smell...leave it out for a few more mins...then microwave it again for 5 mins(thats basically to cut down on time i need to cook it!)...then i pour in a few spoons of chilli powder and a few smaller spoons of coriander powder("sorry sorry...readymade chicken masala is for gals"...i told my astonished sis...who wuz already crying abt the hours of relief work it wud take to get her kitchen back into shape...the poor thing wuz already eating her words for remarking my chicken wud end up like mohanlal's in boeing boeing!), by then my 5 huge onions were being sauted, into which i pour in some more ginger and garlic, and after that my chicken cut into small peices goes...initially it will look like i am goin to make a curry as all this useless water starts coming out from my chicken...the gameplan then is to get it to evaporate...meanwhile i throw in 5 sliced tomatoes(more for the color!), curry leaves, salt, cilantro leaves and lime drops) and after 2 hours of burning my fingers, desperately stirring my chicken, scraping my frying pans bottoms and cursing the curry for not drying up its all ready to eat.

The feeling you get on seeing the vaazhayila's set and each of the side dishes neatly stacked on them is an out-of-the-world one...and with most of the people who i could call friends in LA also around me I knew this wuz the onam i'd cherish the most in life. My sis remarked that I wudnt have survived so long in america if it wuz not for all these nice mallu guys at USC. My mind ran back a year...when I wuz so lonely and depressed and had to beg my kashmiri roomate to take me to the kerala restaurant in san diego to have my onasadhya and his words of praise and thanks for giving him a feel of kerala cuisine. I havent hogged so much in ages...our boys had reserved their best for the most important occasion of all...we served rice in three rounds like at a hindu wedding...with the parippu curry poured in the first, sambhar in the second round and pulisseri in the third and to round it off a most delicious paayasam too! I wonder where I'll be next year...wonder where most of these guys still in school will be working...but so long as I am here...I know I will press these guys to make every Onam henceforth the most memorable event of the year...maybe we'll have an athapoo and a few skits too! Some of us stayed back to round off the night with scotch...listening to folk songs from films and albums...even dancing to a few of them...then settled down and talked fondly for over an hour of the day's happenings and went to sleep wherever we cud find space...worrying if the guy sprawled next to us wud unleash his "sword" in the middle of the night!

Much Belated Happy Onam to all!


Unknown said...

seems u guys had a gr8 time!!. we in bangalore had just another day passed, no fun and nothing. All local mallus seems to have left home. Is jisha seen in the photo? hope she didnt cook!

silverine said...

This is a truly heartwarming post. Its so wonderful to see the trouble all of you took to have a traditional Onsadhya. Truly mallu spirit at work here. Maveli would be proud of you guys as I am sure all mallus who will get to read this post! Hope there are many more groups like yours around the world keeping our traditions alive.

Belated Onashamsakal!!!!

Jiby said...

nagaraj, this time things fell into place and we enjoyed...but its not always been like that...nope jisha aint there in the snap...she ate and left immediately coz we were strained for space.

anjali, like u said somebody here joked that mahabali must have made a detour to LA to be with us...b4 heading back to pathalam.

Sujith said...

happy onam man.. the level of enjoyment can be seen in the pictures u posted.. even v had similar experiences here..

Unknown said...

Philip Cabbage Thoran and the rest sound like typical mallu names! But great spirit guys, if you all went to this extent to make Onam!
But chicken and scotch during Onam! That'd explain it, if someone did actually 'vaaluvekkify'!
Onaashamsakal to you too, Jiby chettah!

Jiby said...

jithu, ur post wuz wht really enthused me to be more pro-active in celebrating our onam...blogging does have its uses beyond writing!!

neil, did u get my reply to ur year for onam do just that if ppl make fun for wearing mundus. well scotch is vegitarian and i cooked my chicken to look more like a thorran!