As Deepavali approaches, I tend to become nostalgic about the sweets and savouries made, when we were young. Those were the days of Mysorepak (note, not Mysorepa), Coconut burfi, Boondi laddu,wheat halwa, Somasi – well, the list is not long. We had not even heard of badushah in the 50’s. Jangiri was generally shop bought. Gulabjamun was scarce. My Appa’s North Indian friend used to send the same, but the shape was then oval and it used to look like a mini-sausage! The round gulabjamuns came much later. In savouries, Mixture and Karasev were the standard ones. Whoever heard of Chiwda, Cornflakes mixture and the likes of the, now famous Rayil Kattidam of Grand sweets ? Fresh butter was bought to be made into fresh ghee, fresh gram dhal was ground in the flour mill to make “melt-in-the-mouth” Mysorepak. For the deepavali eve, the standard menu was Semiya payasam, Vengaya sambar, potato roast with onion and poricha appalam. Deepavali breakfast was idlis, vellayappam and ukkarai – typical Madurai special. If I mention the name ukkarai as my favourite sweet, my grand daughters say “ugh – ukkarai was your favourite?”. In my opinion, soft velvet-textured ukkarai has no parallel! But the sad part is, now many do not bother to make sweets at home and prefer mithai-shop packets ! In the 70’s, when my daughter was entering her teens, with her help, I used to make five varieties of sweets for distribution. One burfi, one laddu, one halwa, one fancy sweet like chiroti or rose puri or saffron puri and the last , my standard favourite Ukkarai. We used to gift-pack the sweets, so enjoyably and the entire procedure of preparation, packing and distribution would start 10 days earlier. I used to distribute much ahead of deepavali so that everybody will be in a mood to enjoy sweets, to start with. Leave alone deepavali specials, how many youngsters of today like idlis and dosais ? To make petal soft, “mallipoo” idlis is no easy job. Many do not like, rather claim to dislike idlis, more because they have never attempted to make successfully or tasted super soft idlis. The dosais, many make, bear a close resemblance to any geometrical shape other than a circle. With perfect measurements, one can make pizzas and pastas but not perfect idlis. Why, the humble upma is disliked by many, more because they have eaten only “gummy” upmas. Athirasam is yet another challenging sweet like thayir vadai in savouries. It is sad that most of our traditional dishes are losing their place of pride in our present day cooking. Now, I am told that masal dosai and cutlets are popular all over the world, but not the likes of Vathakuzambu & paruppusili ! I wonder why ! Well, friends, from a “foodie” like me, you cannot expect a blog on any other topic than sweets & savouries, before Deepavali ! Happy Deepavali ! Love, Chithra.