Tam-Brahm cooking is an adventure that could put many a person in a freaky muddle. Being from a household that gets high on food, I inherited a strong foundation, hence I did not have to learn the basics… or so I thought. As I mentioned before, Tam-Brahm cooking is an adventure, but segregate the population into two (the Iyers and the Iyengars) and it gives you scope to muddle up even the saner crowd… like me.
When I, an Iyengar, got married to an awesome Iyer boy, the mister, my little brain made me believe that I had one less thing to worry about: food. As anyone can tell you, the “gar” crowd is crazy about its food. We are said to frown upon the other clan’s lack of gastronomic creativity. Iyengars love their Paruppus (dal/lentil), are generous with their oils, Nei (clarified butter) and spices. They have an unspoken pact that going OTT on the specified amount of ingredients is the right thing to do for any recipe.
You would never find an Iyengar household in the world without at least two Karamadhus (Iyengar lingo for curry), one Pachchadi (raita) and something fried in their daily menu.
The Iyers on the other hand are very famous for their Vatha Kuzhambu and Appalums and that’s it. I’ve even heard a couple of mean jokes about the Iyers’ staple diet. Though I do admit that I have secretly laughed, I have also acknowledged the huge exaggeration in them. So the Iyer family I have now become a part of is the biggest break to the mean jokes. They love their food. My mommy-in-law is one of the best ever cooks in the world.
Though the stereotypes have all been disproved, I have to admit that the Iyers do rock their Vatha Kuzhambu. Unfortunately, I did not spend too much time with my mommy the second in the kitchen. The two weeks after wedding was spent in socializing with people and stuffing the suitcases with Amreeka-worthy goodies. Landing in this country, I found my way around cooking my Iyengar yummies and trying and ultimately failing to make decent Vatha Kuzhambu. A couple of SOS calls to the Iyer mum and a few conversations with the American Chithi sketched me a vague map about navigating around an Iyer kitchen.
Hence, after multiple trials and errors, I made a Vatha Kuzhambu that seemed 90% Iyer today. The husband gave it 4 stars (going by his comments) and I sighed in relief, fnally! The Iyer gods have not given up on me!