Yesterday was special. Festive, friends, food, friday, fun, fantastic – I can go on and on. It was certainly a big day for me. Challenge of making 12 dishes completely from scratch, pressure of friends coming over and to top it all it was my daughters first Onam. I had to make it special.
Preparations started a few days back with our big shopping – we had kept some stuff for last minute though. Top of the last minute shopping list was the banana leaf on which the lunch is traditionally served. After a long wait and braving the company of impatient last minute shoppers at Lulu, my Mr. Reliable managed to secure the goods, the previous night.
While Saju was out shopping, I was in the kitchen chopping. Yam, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Potato, Drum-stick, Okra, Cabbage, Carrot, Coconut, Beetroot you name it – they went under the knife. By midnight, every ingredient was ready to cook. They spent rest of the night in our refrigerator - waiting their turn to transform into mouth-watering dishes the following morning.
0400am – Smera woke up earlier than usual this morning which meant a shortened wait for the vegetables. I arranged the kitchen –neatly laid out the veggies, spice jars, pots and pans and got to work.
1030am – Most of the dishes, Paripu, Sambar, Pacha moru, Avial, Toran, Pachadi, Stew, Errisary, Injipuli, Kalan were ready. Payasam and papadam were next.
1200pm – Three of us got ready in the traditional malayali gear to receive our guests and our friends arrived soon after that.
1330pm – It was lunch time. We got everyone to sit down. Then the banana leaves were laid. Dishes arrived one by one in their order (there is a hierarchy!). Saju gave a running commentary on history and ingredients of each of the delicacies.
Back home in olden days, food was eaten on the banana leaf, sitting down on the floor. Even today, it is customary to uphold this tradition during Onam. Many of us had some adjusting to do before we could master the technique.
Round one was rice with paripu (dal) and butter, then came sambar, after that butter milk (pacha moru), each of the courses were accompanied by a selection of side-dishes.
1430pm - Several servings later, the lunch was concluded with a generous helping of palada payasam (sweet dish made of milk and rice pasta)
During our post lunch analysis, someone asked the origins of this big a spread for Onam. No one knows the exact answer why, but it is quite possible that it is meant to signify life.
It’s got a bit of everything - sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, hot, cold, crispy!