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Mealtime Memories

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by twinsmom, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Like they say in a popular Hindi movie, a family that eats together…stays together! I strictly feel that meal times should be family times… as it is in my Sasuraal. All meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner are partaken together…even during the summer vacations when we all go home and there is barely any elbow space at the huge dining table at home!

    My memories of eating together goes way back into my childhood when some nights, we’d have ‘Kayyila peshanju podal’. This was an activity full of fun and food… Generally, there’d be stories to accompany the food. Reflecting on those days, I feel that it had been a clever ruse on the elders’ part to popularise such a concept. For one, it reduces the number of dishes and plates to clean…and secondly, no one complains about personal preferences…Finally, even a poor and fussy eater ends up eating substantial quantity this way satisfying a mother’s heart!

    The modus operandi is like this: the mother or the grandmother (or grandaunt in our case) mixes rice and Rasam or Sambhar…or even curd and rice…) in a big vessel and keeps a plate with the side- dish nearby. We children settle ourselves down around her and she starts scooping out decent mouthfuls of rice, adds some ‘poduthuwal’( stir fried veggies) or pickle and puts it into the stretched hand to her left… The next one goes to the person seated next and so on and so forth… There will be some slow eaters who wouldn’t have swallowed the food in their mouth and that gives a chance for the glutton in the group to jump the line and extend a greedy hand for that serving… If there is no public outcry, the trespasser is obliged…otherwise he is told to wait his/her turn!
    Yummmmmm! Food tasted so wonderful coming from that ‘akshayapaatra’… And if there was a story to accompany, we’d ask for more… Such sessions were common during vacations and power-cuts.

    Normal eating times would be different for the men -folk and children of the family, and for the women. So there’d be 8 of us, grandfather, Dad, Dad’s younger brother- our uncle and the five of us. Each of us had our own plates starting with Thatha’s silver plate and side plate… and Rat’s smallest steel plate. Plates would be set on the floor in a line…and glasses of water will follow. Grandma, Grandaunt and Mom will start serving and we’d gobble hot delicious home food… Dining table came much later.
    Once the dining table made its entry, we also got into our first bad habit…of reading a book while eating. The trend setter was Dad who’d read the newspaper or his Nevil Shute or Max Brand while Mom hovered about him refilling his plate, sensing his requirements… We started reading comics our Phantoms, Mandrakes and Caspers and Richie Riches…later upgrading to Enid Blytons and Westerns and Mills and Boons as we grew up… A habit I got rid of after I got married.

    Even after the coming of the dining table, on festivals and Shraddham ( anniversaries of paying homage to departed elders!) we’d eat seated on the floor.Eating off a banana leaf is an art in itself. First, you have to clean the leaf with the water from the glass given to you. Even if the leaf has been cleaned earlier, you feel compelled to do that as though you are displaying your credentials as a clean person. Traditional food is served on fixed sections of the leaf…in a particular order. You can’t start eating till everything has been served…and the men have done the ritualistic prayers…then you attack the food… With trial and error you learn not to tear your leaf with your nails…or to let an enthusiastic rasam or sambhar run out of territory…But the mark of true expertise lies in the way you manage the paayasam served on the leaf… The act of scooping out handful of piping hot payasam and slurping it in without dripping it down your elbow, shows your expertise in the art of eating! Again, it is time for family bonding…recalling previous ‘Sadyas’ and commenting on various items… The menfolk’s flattering of the dishes will be soaked in by smug ladies half hiding behind the kitchen door…

    The flipside of this practice of men and children eating first is that on ordinary days, sometimes there may not be sufficient food left over for the ladies who had taken pains to cook and who’d eat last! That is why I prefer the practice in my in- laws’ house. All meals must be taken together… For one, it guaranteed a system… making it easier for the ladies to finish all the work… During my college days meal times had become so erratic in my home. Brothers would come and eat as and when they reached home, Grandfather needed food according to his routine…Dad preferred his… Except for special occasions , we didn’t eat together… But in the last 24 years of my married life meal times have been regulated and fixed. Whether in Bokaro, <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = ST1 /><ST1:CITY><ST1:pLACE>Durgapur</ST1:pLACE></ST1:CITY>, <ST1:CITY><ST1:pLACE>Delhi</ST1:pLACE></ST1:CITY> or Bhadravathi, the breakfast starts between 8.45 and 9. Lunch is to be served at 12.45 and dinner at 8.45- unless there are guests and visitors who do not know about our golden rules.

    I simply love the way we all sit together… Appa at the head of the table, Amma to his left… S aunty to her left…then the rest of us… Only when there are more than 8 adults and 5 kids …do we change the pattern. Then, we ladies will sit as the second batch… Meal times are the time to share jokes, tease each other, discuss things and generally to eat well. Spilling of water , occasional diasters caused by old and ‘bottom-worn’ tumblers, are frowned upon, salt and pickle passed by whoever is near them… Mind you, all passing and serving is done with the left hand, for it is taboo to touch the ladles with the right hand as it is being used for eating…There will be a background music from All India Radio , Bhadravathi station…

    And meals are taken in the dining room. Nobody is allowed to take their plate and shift to the living room to watch TV and eat… Quite a change from my Sharjah home, where the living and dining areas are in the same hall! So the eternal TV is on all the time. Also, I have this bad habit of treating all meals as buffets… I just pile food on my plate and settle on the sofa to eat and watch at the same time… A bad habit which I gladly shed during my visits to Bhadravathi… I try not to violate the system in that house, for I feel, in the long run, it has helped in instilling discipline in all of us.
     
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  2. kanaka Raghavan

    kanaka Raghavan IL Hall of Fame

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    I fully agree with you .I always feel that a family should spend their meal times together.In my parents house my father insisted that we have a meal atleast one together.When my cousins came for holidays we had ''kalla pazhaathu''.It used to be tasty,especially curds rice with vaddu mangai pickle.Everyone used literally race for the last mouthful.We used enjoy the chitra pournami meals on the terrace.
    After my marriage it was one meal atleast together.When the children were young there was no meal at the table,as there were no chairs near the table,as my daughter used love to dabble with all the dishes!!!!!!!!!!!.When they became big,it was meals in front of the T.V.We used pile all the food and move over to the sofa.My daughter when she comes to Abudhabi takes over the carpet.It saves a lot of time carrying food to the dining table and then bringing it back to kitchen .Then the cleaning process starts.The dining table is used only when friends turn up.I miss old times but at the same time enjoy my meal in the hall!!!







    1
     
  3. arch174

    arch174 Senior IL'ite

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    Hi Twinsmom,
    Hey u start with biscuits & go on to all this yummy stuff..U r a dieter's nightmare:bangcomp: Next time I will learn to skip ur posts...I am north Indian but wud definitely luv to join this party...food is a small issue...togetherness is the big prize

    Keep posting:tongue
     
  4. meenu

    meenu Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Twinsmom,
    You made me nostalgic.In my childhood too we were in a joint family and i did have an aunt(she is now over 90)kailepesanchufy for us chidren. Yes,we used to eatlike gluttons.You description is very vivid and theflow of words smooth and entertaining.You made my day.
    Regards,
    Meenu
     
  5. vmur

    vmur Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,

    You have an art of making us nostalgic and tickling our taste buds. During summer holidays, along with our cousins we used to sit around and grandmom reminisce World War II memories, how great grandpa walked along with other all the way from Rangoon to Calcutta, how there were no telephones, and how they came to know that he was alive only after 3 months, after grandmom along with her sister and great grandmom and other relatives settled in the village near Thanjavur. That used to be our favourite story, and we never get tired of listening to it again and again along with the puli sadam and thayir sadam.

    I am for eating together as a family too, that practice was very strict in my parent's place, that way, we were forced to eat vegetables and did not get a chance to be picky about food. I hate to eat alone, I would rather go hungry than eat alone. But that practise is not there in Sasuraal, and my husband never sits with me at the dining table to eat with me (he always takes his plate and runs to watch the TV). :( .. However this has helped me lose weight since I eat less when I dont have company :) .

    Again, enjoyed reading your write-up!

    Regards
    Vidya
     
  6. MeenLoch

    MeenLoch Silver IL'ite

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    You got all my memories of yesteryears back. I miss the time with my parents back home, when we all used to tease each other, have fun after a stressful day at work /college. My brother left for engineeering.Now I have come abroad too. Wish we could re-live those days.
    As for now, my husband watches TV and eats. I keep telling him not to :cry:. time. Just 2 of us now. Coz food is something hich we shud relish and eat. Add to that the aspect of family time. He does complement, but HAS to watch tv or jokes on youtube.

    Great going with the posts. Interesting reads :)
     
  7. slp807

    slp807 Bronze IL'ite

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    Dear Twinsmom,

    you made me nostalgic, i miss all those days. we use to enjoy at the lunch and dinner table when we were at Grandmom's place.

    even now we (ofcourse me and my hubby) will make sure that we have our dinner together at the dining table everyday.

    i love your write-ups and wish to read many more from you.

    cheers
    sreelatha
     
  8. twinsmom

    twinsmom Silver IL'ite

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    Hi friends!
    like I said, a family that eats together....stays together...
    See...so many in the IL family are together in this now... Nostalgia is a wonderful stuffed toy to cuddle !
     
  9. sunkan

    sunkan Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Viju,
    U Have Already Cuddled Me And Know How Much I Fit In Here...sunkan
     

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