My husband got me a cookery book (ya, can you imagine!?) during his last trip to India. It’s called ” The Suriani Kitchen” by Lathika George. This book is a collection of traditional recipes that most Syrian Christian Keralites are familiar with. Being a Syrian Christian myself, he got it so that I get to learn the actual way of cooking our staple dishes like Paalappam (lace-rimmed pancakes), Kappa (tapioca), meat, fish and all that. Because somewhere in this fast pace of life, everything is available in stores as either ready-made or ready to eat.
Let’s start with the ingredients. Really today, who actually buys fresh red chillies or turmeric or peppercorns or rice and takes it to a mill, to get it powdered? My uncle used to own a mill near my family home, and he shut it down about 10 years back because he had no business. He complained that all the women folk around have gotten so lazy to buy the spices and then give it for grinding, that they now resort to packaged powders available at every nook and corner of a street. The older women of the household would still like to have their spices and rice ground, but then old age is not in their favour and so they need to listen to their daughters or daughter in law or sometimes even the household help.
Although we all know the truth that…the packaged ready to use spices don’t have the taste of the freshly ground spices, our living patterns leave us with no choice. I still yearn for food that’s cooked using masala that had been ground on the grinding stone, but really would I take the effort and waste a whole lot of time and energy?? Hell NO!
Also the electrical tools that we use like the blender, grinder, food processor will give you the same effect atleast lookwise when compared to the traditional methods, but there’s a major difference in the taste and of course it lacks the aroma.
But then again, who uses the electrical devices also these days?? Life, when you throw in some extra money, has become even more easy and convenient. For e.g. if you want to make Paalappam, there’s either the ready-made batter available today at stores or else, there’s the instant appam mix where you just add milk and blend. Or if you want to make, Kumbilappam /Chakka Ada (Steamed Jackfruit Cones), which normally would take a long time, in today’s age and time it has become a really simple thing. Why? Because you get the almost-ready-to-eat, already wrapped in bog leaves in the chiller section of all major stores. And all you need to do is steam it. This is the same story with Sweet potato, Kheer, Sambar masala, everything.
This book has a lot of illustrations, stories and pictures of olden methods of cooking. Which made me think, the generation that I am in was just plain lucky because we were atleast able to see our mothers and grandmothers cook the traditional way. The next generation would think all of this as rocket science because we are fast-moving into a world where everyone buys and eats those ready-to-eat packaged meals from the store, which absolutely lacks the taste and texture.
To drive the point home, I’m just glad my husband bought this book. It helped me connect to my roots and I hope this book I can pass it on to the next generation so that they can atleast read about how food was cooked not so long back and experiment atleast some of the delicious traditional Syrian Christian food ( so what if they cook using store-bought spices and electrical gadgets, atleast they are cooking it rather than buying the ready-to-eat stuff or even worse junk n fast food 24/7!)
So I’m going to make a decent effort of trying my hand at some traditional dishes and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.