When Vignesh came up with the idea of starting a team blog, he wanted each of us to take “roles” and write posts related to that. I had a really tough time zeroing on mine. And then we unanimously decided that I write on food being the hog I am. One look at me and you may come to the conclusion that I am one of those malnourished kids (or worse, anorexic teenage model wannabes). I don’t care about that but just don’t bet on it. I can prove you so wrong if I have the stomach to. I am definitely not a glutton. I can use my fork and knife when needed. Neither am I one of those gourmet-kinds. I never stop to think about the pani that goes into my puri.
Now that I have said enough about me, let’s get on with the post. The reason I am sitting here in front of my computer on a perfectly normal Monday morning is because my college chairman’s son is getting married! (OK, the exclamation was for the holiday we got. I really don’t care if he got married or laid). Tomorrow we have a “special” lunch at our mess and I am already excited! It is rumored to be edible for a change – in a typical Tamil wedding meal style.
Another blogger Venky was really concerned about how Indians on the other side of the Vindhyas remain oh-so-ignorant about the varieties in the Tamizh cuisine. So here is Keerthi’s guide to the Tamizh wedding meal. A Tamizh wedding meal includes dishes from every corner of India and even China, so food should not be a problem for those finicky eaters.
Meals in a tamizh wedding can be broadly classified into two – The Reception meal and the actual wedding meal. The reception meal is usually held in buffet style with most of the food items not being related to Tamil Nadu or even South India for that matter. It will definitely feature Punjab-da-puttars’ favourite Paneer Butter Masala to some least Chinese-influenced Vegetable Manchurian. Jeera rice and Butter naan are staples.
The main meal is the actual wedding meal. Depending on the muhoorth time and the budget of the brides’ father, the breakfast on the wedding day can be anything from a simple filter coffee to a heavy breakfast. Before we get on to the breakfast, you have to know how we Tamil people use cutlery – We don’t. At least at a wedding. Practice using your hands to eat food before hand if you don’t want a cheeky 5 year old shouting “aiyaya! Indha maamaku saapda kooda therila”*. Food is served on a banana leaf. Begin by washing the leaf, not at the hand wash but by sprinking some water on it. Supposed to work better than Dettol. Idly and Pongal will mostly fill your leaf. You will have variety between the three different types of chutney (coconut, tomato and coriander) or the molaga podi or sambar to eat your idly with. End the meal with a steaming cup coffee.
The lunch is the best part of a Tamizh wedding. After you follow the above said leaf sanitizing methods, the guys serving would first place some salt and pickle on the right end of your leaf. That is for the curd. So save it till the end. For some strange reason unknown, the side-dishes are served before the actual rice. It will have a porial - which is basically stir-fried veggies with mustard and coconut, avial – veggies cooked in curd and coconut milk (which is actually Keralite but who cares?) and a varuval meaning fry (which would mostly be potato). A cup of curd, paayasam and sweet will occupy the small green areas unoccupied on the “other end” of the leaf. The sweet can be a laddu or badam halwa or even a totally non South-Indianish rasagulla.
If you are lucky enough, you might get tiffin also, which would have the typical filter coffee and Mangalore Bonda (which like its name suggests is definitely not Tamizh)
Remember never to call the guy who is serving food by snapping your sambar soaked fingers or by shouting “waiter” unless you want to call off the wedding itself. That guy can be a really enthusiastic close relative of the poor souls getting married. Also don’t empty one particular dish before the others. It will definitely result in refilling which will spoil our ultimate goal of emptying the leaf. And if you are in doubt, follow the next person!
Next time you get invited to a Tamizh wedding, starve for a day and follow this tutorial. Happy Eating!
* - “Oh! Look! This Uncle doesn’t know how to eat!”