Yesterday was Aavniavatam and of course I did not remember. I remembered Rakshabandhan and like any good sister in this modern day I changed my profile picture to something which has my brother looking super cute and me looking good- waiting for people to ‘like’ it.
So when my mil called me at 11:30 a.m. (by which time every self respecting iyer-iyengar ponnu should have showered and offered ummachi something to eat) asking what all I made today, I was caught. Honesty being the only way forward (since I would have to ask for recipes anyway) I told her I forgot and she being the kind soul did not make a big deal about it. Then armed with recipes for nei appam, vadai and sakarapongal I rushed to shower and leave for the supermarket.
Back at 12:30 with all the ingredients for appam, some sort of payasam and MTR Vada mix I was back home and I started with the prepping. I did not have the kuzhi paatram for making appam so I directly used a spoon to pour the batter into the oil. The result was something that looks like bhajji but tastes like appam.
It took 3 hours to wrap up the whole deal and I ended up eating stir fry vegetables for lunch (yes irony infused situation). But overall I would say I did have a great time.
When I came to India every year as a child, aavniavatam was a huge deal. All the boys would be up by 5:30 a.m. to go for the pujai for changing sacred thread business. Whereas the women will shower and then start cooking (the sequence I have never been able to follow). There would be appams, payasam, vadai, avial, some unnamed kozhambu, applams/vadam, upperi, pulikaachal and my favourite pachadi all being made at the same time. I used to wear my pavadai and pretend to be busy while sneaking out to read my book only to be caught and told to cut almonds, cashew and pista into small pieces. I was never really caught up with the whole pujai deal but this cooking festival, running to check with the vaadyar when the poonal changing thingy will be done and report back at home feeling very important was what made my India trip real.
The boys would be back by 1:30 p.m. by which everyone would be ravenous and thatha would start his pujai then. After sprinkling turmeric’y’ holy water on us (extra large serving if you look particularly bored) all the boys were made to sit in a line and the girls would bring in the assortment of rakhis to tie on their wrists followed by a series of namaskarams to all adults present. Then the periammas, chittis and mamis would give gifts to the girls on behalf of the brothers. The gifting process was complex – right from selection to distribution the focus had to be on equity and customisation at the same time. Hence the responsibility was never given to the boys. What happened therefore was my brother would eagerly open my gift which was supposed to be from him to see if I got something he would like, say Pokemon cards. Like I said, complex.
So when C asked me yesterday if I enjoyed the whole deal of making all those things…I had to say yes. While I did not know which god to pray to or the chanting part the whole thing made me go back to my childhood and smile.
Below are pictures of my attempt at nei appam and vadai. The appam looks nothing like what my patti makes (check out the one deformed appam that strangely looks like gingerbread man) and the only reason I put a sprig of curry leaves near the vadai was to for you to be able to tell it apart from the appam.
P.S: since I do not like sakarapongal myself I did not make it. Instead I made a coconut milk pudding with almonds and boy o boy was that awesome! 😀