Before the colonial rule our ancestors used to serve classic refreshments like Ayurvedic lemonade (panakam), buttermilk, spiced-milk, elixir, etc. to their guests. Later it became a tradition to serve beverages like tea or coffee to our guests. Nowadays tea breaks have become the order of a day in every institution across India. Every conversation, whether an important official discussion or a trivial gossip, begins with a sip of refreshing cardamom ginger tea or masala chai. Apparently tea shops turn out to be a place for making friends, discussing international, national and local news and also a place for finding solutions for social issues.
It is a common tendency of people here that they pamper their guests whom they respect the most with sumptuous feasts to express their special affinity towards them. So the way food offered to guests is obviously regarded as a scale to measure their closeness. During my childhood days, I often found people getting offended during family functions, particularly weddings, as they felt humiliated at the banquet hall (pandhi) which incidentally became the starting point (place) of most of the family feuds. Nowadays to avoid such unpleasant situations, people hire hosts/ hostesses who give an artificial smile at every guest, treat them all with due respect, and eventually ensure the equality.
We often felt shy talking about food during our childhood days as we might get teased by our peers or others as gourmands. Nowadays, it is a welcome trend that the kids are happily wielding small ladles to cook up their favorite meals (thanks to the TV shows like Masterchef Juniors), and the teens turn to food critics with élan. Today the gourmands proudly declare themselves the foodies and try various cuisines. Apparently, a foodie would find Pesarattu, the golden green crepes, served with melt-in-mouth savory sooji (upma), flavorful lentil stew (sambar), spicy ginger chutney and creamy coconut chutney as a gastronomic delight.
Truffles are French candies made using cocoa, nuts & dry fruits and chocolate truffles are nutty balls coated with chocolate ganache. Since all the ingredients in here are rich sources of vitamins, minerals & anti-oxidants, these candies are not only delicious but also nutritious treats. These chocolate truffles act like protein-rich energy balls and can be packed as a mid-morning snack for school-going children. Here I have shared a recipe for ginger and fig truffles that can be prepared easily so that we can gift them to our loved ones on any special occasion.
Idli with ketti chutney is a popular street food among bachelors who miss their home-cooked food for breakfast. Both my grandmothers prepared ketti chutney (meaning thick chutney) every day. It tastes delicious when served with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a simple coconut chutney that does not require any tempering.
Sodhi is an exotic Sri Lankan curry prepared with lentils and vegetables stewed in coconut milk. Although sodhi is not a spicy curry, it has grown popular among the people living in & around Tirunelveli who usually enjoy spicy curries. The banana leaf platter served at our family wedding feasts is a lavish spread of creamy sodhi, pungent inji pachadi, spicy potato fries, crunchy appalam, scrumptious coconut milk dessert (payasam), sweet boondhi and fresh curd as shown below. Wedding in our family is usually hosted by bride’s family. However bride’s family is treated with a sumptuous meal (maruveetu sappadu) with sodhi the day after marriage, and it is a unique custom prevalent here to signify the confluence of both the families.
Panakam is a traditional ayurvedic lemonade offered as neivedyam to deities at home on the day of Sashti Viratham (fasting) observed by Saivites and also on the day of Rama Navami celebrated by Vaishnavites. Rama navami is celebrated on the birthday of Lord Rama and Kandha Sashti Viratham is usually observed on the Sashti thithi of every month and is also observed for seven consecutive days in the month of Iyppasi after Deepavali.
Mango pachadi is a sweet, sour & spicy jam prepared to welcome the Tamil New Year. It is a delicious side dish for rice and goes well with any kuzhambu or rasam. Also we serve this dish with the traditional ulutham paruppu sadam or black gram rice.
Ulundhu kali is a soft silky ebony sweetmeat specially prepared for girls & women as it helps to strengthen the uterus & hip bones. It is a traditional south Indian delicacy mainly served to young girls (during their cycles particularly in their first cycle) and also to pregnant women.
We take inji legiyam, a digestive jam, the day after Deepavali as we all enjoy a sumptuous feast consisting of sweets & savories during this festival. It is also known as Deepavali legiyam or Deepavali marundhu. A teaspoon of legiyam taken in the morning on an empty stomach helps improve the digestion. So we can take this legiyam after the feasts enjoyed during festivals or weddings. It is also beneficial to children or sick people to increase their appetite.