Flavours from the Land of the Krishna and the Godavari


Update as of 10 December 2009

Most states in India are known better by their cuisine than anything else – and since India is such a food loving nation, there is no better way to describe a state than by its signature food dishes. So if you happen to be airdropped into Goa blindfolded, the vindaloos and sorpotel aromas would waft into your nostrils and you would enjoy your susegad; while if the same happened to you over Kerala, the coconut oil smell will help you geo-locate your position; while the thud with a  blindfold over Punjab would be softened by the overpowering smell of the tomato onion paste being sautéed in fresh home-made butter; while the sweet aromas of freshly bought nolen gur, date jaggery, would knock you back to your senses if you got thudded into Bengal. So if you happened to be marooned on a coastal town anywhere between Nellore and Visakhapatnam or be stranded at the edge of the Deccan plateau at Renigunta or Yerraguntla or meander somewhere close to Warangal or Karimnagar – you would know where you are by the food you would be served. Any meal out here will have 2 distinct permanents – first the sharp and sour red chutney – allam pachadi. This is the perfect appetite elixir with just the right amount of tamarind tang needed to subdue the hot Guntur red chillies that hold onto the creamy fibrous ginger root paste. One just drops a dollop of this in the centre of your right palm and licks it off to get started with the meal. And then the food arrives – to be eaten with the “not to be found anywhere else” green gongura chutney or pickle – permanent number 2. This is a delicacy made differently in each home out here, except that they all taste so much alike. The gongura leaves are heart shaped sour leaves that are grown in spinach and amaranth patches and these are cooked with loads of sesame oil (gingelly oil) and some chilies, but will retain its green colour. This one is spicier of the two pachadis, and so is used as an accompaniment to rice or greengramme pancakes, pesarattu. The green pancake with the spicy green chutney that is also a pickle is simply a combination no one can resist. Sail anywhere on the Krishna or Godavari or go on a pilgrimage to Kalahasthi or Tirupati; the tastes will be the same with very subtle distinctions.

Amidst the newspaper headlines of a possible state division, the D Street Boyz did not know whether it spelt good news or bad. So while they opened the day, they quickly dashed it into red territory and stayed that way till 12 noon. Their appetites were churned and the morning allam pachadi elixir seemed to have worked, as they just gorged on the green pesarattu and gongura chutney till they were satiated at the end – moving the SENSEX from its morning lows of 70 points to end at the evening highs of 64 points – stopping at 17189.

Some people may argue that the aavakaaya, the fiery red mango pickle, is the food symbol for these Telugu speaking people; but strangely this is a pickle that even people on the coast spanning from Chennai to Tuticorin to Kanyakumari relish and religiously prepare each summer – taking away that exclusivity tag from it. Sure, some people may have thought that the D Boyz ate some of this red pickle and polished off the soft, shrunken green mango to behave like they did today at D Street. Now if that actually happened, then perhaps tomorrow’s news headlines would read “Instead of a State division; there is a merger of the 2 large Coromandel Coast states”. Their movie industries have always been like one large family and now avakaaya plays the conciliator.

Wishfully thinking and Cheeringly wishful……

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