However, amma cooking for festivals is a memoir not only of ugadhi, but on so many other occasions. Lets just say, i was almost in tears this morning thinking of her. There is some profound happiness in eating a meal your mother made. You may not appreciate it fully. Or rather i had not appreciated it completely. Until i got married. Only when one begins cooking, the craving for the luxury of eating some one else s meal dawns bright. This post is dedicated only to my mother. For bringing me up the way she did. For making me see the sunny side of life, for introducing me to wonderful books, for teaching me to accept, let go and fight back. Oh! the list is endless. But that s how a mother is i guess. I dont think any one else can teach you to do all three; accept, let go and fight better than a mom. This is for her for loving me so much so unconditionally. Now, i know what you are thinking. If you are going to tell me that you have had enough of this melodrama, then i ll stop right here. And maybe go on to a more delightful memory that i have, of my childhood.
As an only child, i got all my demands fulfilled. Reasonable or not. That did not give me the privilege of not being told off or spanked though. Mom was a lesser martinet. And hence. So, the question of sharing or waiting for someone else to begin a meal or even share a toy never arose. On almost all the festival days, amma used to make this particular paruppu vadai or amai vadai meaning tortoise vadai. More on that later. She used to soak the dal, grind it to a coarse paste, season it and then drop those rounded discs into a pot full of hot oil. And then after a few minutes, she used to drain them beauties on to a kitchen towel. As a child, watching all this was like magic to me. I was often left wondering how some yellowish looking dough turned so beautifully golden brown and crispy. Well, the real fun part came after she removed them. I used to gobble them before she could bring another batch. I remember so many days when dad wanting to taste one would look in the bowl, and would find it, much to his chagrin, without a trace of those fritters. My dad still recounts this. But now, the charm of eating them has gone. Maybe the prospect of making them holds a greater charm.
Coming back to the tortoise. In the initial days of my marriage, just when life was blooming for me in the kitchen, my MIL lived with us for over a month. She is a versatile woman, in the sense, her exposure is limited but her creativity and versatility go very far. When she was here, she used to make some special tidbit on sundays for Mr. P and me to nibble. One sunday afternoon, she told me she was going to make thavalai vadai. Which translates to frog fritters. The moment she uttered the word frog, i was alarmed. Seeing me bewildered, she asked me if i like thavalai vadai or aamai vadai. Now, i was truly scared stiff. All i could think was, that we were such strait laced vegetarians and that my parents had married me off to people who ate meat. And that too frogs and tortoises. I was nearly into tears. For, my love for tortoises is greater than my love for fritters. It was only after i explained my confusion to her that she explained that those were all names given to the many dal fritters that she made. And only then did i heave a sigh and tell her that i was a gargantuan addict to paruppu vadai. I even used aamai vadai when i told her that . To this date, my MIL and i burst into laughter when we recount that fateful day when we talked of tortoises and frogs.
Prep Time: 2 hours for soaking the dal
Under 30 mins for all else
Cook Time: Under 15 mins for a batch of 4 to 5 fritters
Yields 12 to 15 fritters
What you need?
Bengal gram or channa dal 1 cup
Dry red long chilies 10
Hing a large pinch
Onions 2 medium chopped finely
Saunf or fennel seeds 1/2 tsp
Cilantro chopped finely 1/4 cup
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying