Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cut and Dried

Well it has been a long time since my last post, once again with good reason. Most of the time in the past fortnight was spent remembering Manni in each and every small thing I did. Every time I did something, I was reminded of similar occasions during the time spent with Manni and tell my husband about that. It is really surprising how we remember somebody more when they are no longer with us. I definitely did not reminisce about Manni everyday in the past so many years.

As I said, after Sivarathri the winter goes away chanting Siva Siva. This also means that it is time to start making all the sun dried vadams and vattals (wafers and dried vegetables), pickles, etc. It is the time of the year when women get busy replenishing their inventory of vadams for the whole year and the children were made busy helping their mothers. Now many people are happy buying these things at stores and children may not even know they can be home made. When we were children, March was the month of hectic activity making vadams, pickles, processing tamarind and toor dal, etc in addition to our annual exams at school. The vadam making had to be over before Vishu (14th April) when the premonsoon showers begin. Vadam making was a big festival then. All the households were engaged in these activities and would help each other in the process of making vadams. Children had the double responsibility of helping in the kitchen as well as minding the vadams when they were put out in the sun for drying. There were crows and stray dogs, besides passers by and children (whom we referred to us human crows), who would grab the vadams by 3s and 4s. We used to take turns minding the crows. I remember my brother coming into the house crying once and when asked why he was crying, he said, "I was made to sit there for 2 hours minding the crows and not a single crow came."

There were different varieties of vadams. Elai vadams, karuvadams, javvvarisi (sagopalm) karuvadams , vazhathandu (banana stem) karuvadams and perandai (Vitis Quadrangularis). In our house we made only elai vadams and karuvadams which were easier than the other vadams or so our Echiyamma thought.

The elai vadams as the name says were made on the leaves of Palasha tree (flame of the forest, Buteamonosperma). Preparing the leaves for making the vadams was itself a big process. The village cowherd would bring the leaves to all the houses from the forest. We had to select big round leaves without any holes, wash them and stack them in 10s or 20s and keep a weight on them to straighten them. This had to be done the previous evening. The next day we had to wipe the leaves with a cloth dipped in a mixture of oil and water and then start preparing the vadams. This was how it was done until I was in my teens. Then came a new way of making them by completely eliminating the use of leaves and our drudgery. There was this new contraption somebody's daughter brought from Bombay which consisted of a stand with racks for 6 plates made of tin. Our jack of all trades Muthu immediately got into the business of making dozens and dozens of them for all those who wanted. We just had to give him a used oil tin or something and he will make the vadam plates and stand. It revolutionised vadam making. To this day, we use this contraption.

Karuvadams were made by pressing the cooked rice flour and drying them.

This also is the season of preparing kadugumanga or vadumanga (Tamil) which again is a time consuming process. This is also the time when tamarind is processed. This takes days and days. The tamarind had to be shelled and dried and the seeds removed and the dried tamarind preserved in earthenware pots or ceramic jars with a sprinkling of salt.

Toor pods were shelled and the seeds were soaked in a mixture of clay and water for a couple of days until the grams sprouted. They were then sun dried when the mud sticking to the grams would dry and fall off and the grams were lighly pounded to remove the husk and toor dal for the whole year was made and stored.

Well, I did many of the above jobs in the last few days besides celebrating Karadayan Nonbu and my first born's birthday. More importantly I filmed all the above so that I can share with you all my recipes for the above. Fully justified in not blogging, don't you think?


Asha said...

Great post, love the Sandige, must make some in Summer. Happy birthday to your son! :)

Ammupatti said...

Hi Asha

Happy vadam making!

Nirmala said...

Very nice to read about Vadams. I remember my Ammamai, and her sister, whom we all call chitthi making vadams..More than anybody else, they had to watch us as we loved to eat the half-dried vadams :-)
All your posts brings me very good memories of my childhood and I just wish I can show this all to my daughter.
Fantastic job of sharing this with us.
I anxiously wait for your post, as well as a new story:-) My 3 year old daughter sings the "Kozhakattai story" from your blog.

Best regards,