Reading Panchangam (an almanac prepared based on Indian calendar system) is an age-old custom followed every year on the day of Tamil New Year celebrated in the middle of April. A few centuries ago it was a customary that royal priests were summoned to read a new Panchangam in the king’s court mentioning important dates of the year and also foretelling the calamities like flood, war, etc. Even today every TV channel telecasts the speech rendered by astrologers predicting the next prime minister, rain fall, gold price, etc. that are of great interest to people of all walks of life .
We grew up relishing sweet fruity beetroot pachadi served in every wedding feast, it was an unforgettable experience for us to relish the beautiful reddish-purple puree infused with the flavors of native fruits. Nowadays, this traditional fruit dessert has not been included in the menu prepared for the feasts, and beetroot jam is replaced by vanilla ice cream with fruit salad.
My father never missed to treat me with a glass of delicious mixed fruit juice whenever he took me out for shopping during my childhood days. I still remember how I relished this refreshing drink particularly during hot sunny days. This fruit juice can be enjoyed by chewing but not by sipping through a straw as it was served neither diluted like juice nor concentrated as smoothie. My father always preferred to take fresh mixed fruit juice without ice & sugar, hence I got motivated to prepare fruit juice without ice (or ice cream) and to use unprocessed sugar in place of refined sugar. My father also made us to realize that taking the food made of assorted fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, or lentils is essential for children’s growth as it prevents vitamin deficiency.
We normally celebrate every new beginning with sweets, but we follow a unique tradition of preparing an elaborate meal of different flavours (arusuvai virudhu) on the occasion of Chithirai Vishu (New Year) celebrated on the 14th or 15th of April every year. It is an Ayurvedic tradition mainly to stimulate all the parts of our palate by taking a nourishing meal of six flavours like sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salt & pungent. This also encourages us to embrace each season, or every change in our life gracefully. So we never miss to prepare veppampoo pachadi or veppampoo rasam made using bitter neem flowers for our New Year feast (Vishu sadhya).
Panchamirtham is the sacred fruit salad offered as neivedyam to deities at home, and also used for abishegam (bathing deities) in Hindu temples across Tamilnadu. The most renowned Palani panchamirtham is prepared using unique bananas that are exclusively grown near Palani hills. It is offered to Lord Muruga in Palani temple and also to devotees as prasadam. You can check out this video to see how panchamirtham abishegam is performed to the deity in a temple.
I have been planning to bake a mango cake in this summer, but I could not keep a few separately for baking as they were usually devoured in a couple of days. Now my mother sent me the last batch of organic mangoes that were plucked from the trees grown in her backyard when the fruit bearing season of mango is almost nearing an end.
We prepare buttermilk by diluting curd (yoghurt), and we also prepare creamy lassi using curd made of full fat milk. Spiced buttermilk is a traditional south Indian drink usually served after taking an elaborate lunch meal to improve the digestion. Buttermilk with jeera powder or chaat masala is popular in other parts of India. Lassi is usually served chilled as a dessert in almost every part of India.