About 7 or 8 years back I had taste (not tryst) with destiny. In Tirupathi, there is a place called Urban Hat i.e Urban village. It is mainly an expo -showing handicrafts, handloom textile etc. The day I visited, there was a Village Food festival. Mostly it was the usual stuff – vada, briyani, fried rice, iddly etc- certainly not what I expected. But in a unconspicuous corner I saw ‘Jonna rotti’. I vaguely remember – Jonna as some of corn or some such thing. I decided to give it a try.
It is a roti made out of jonna (telugu) -Cholam (Tamil) – no it is not makkacholam- maize(the stuff you normally see in beaches with sparkles from aduppu and chilly powder smeared corn) (By the way I am planning to write about Maize,America,Hoysala sculpture shortly- when writing about some history stuff). Cholam is an ancient food grain – I think it is truly native. The roti was served with kathirikkai kuttu(brinjal). This is the first time I ever had a food shock – by its taste. Especially combination roti+kathirikkai kuttu. The effect was there lying dormant for longtime.
Few months back I happen watch Kaimanm- கைமணம்- a cookery programme in Makkal TV. A fantastic programme indeed. Here Ramasubrmanian – Researcher in Tamil food tells us about old food habits and benefits of the ingredients used – mainly millets – instead of rice, wheat. This programme rekindled interest in the lost heritage in me. In one the programme he prepared varagu pongal –
Millets are small seeded grases giving us grains which are healthy. They grow easily in drought like conditions also. There are several of them which were common in our forefather’s time, forming staple food. Kelvaragu,Kambu,Varagu,Thinai, Samai were common. in those days- remember the famous prayer – தேனும் திணை மாவும் கலந்து… In this TV programme featured something I have never heard – குதிரைவாலி அரிசி- horse tailed millet etc. Curiosity increases day by day. If I ask varagu in any of the shops in Selaiyur, Chitlapakkam or Tambaram – they looked at me as though they found someone escaped from IMH Kilpauk. Indeed my attempt in Mother’s native village near Pondy even didn’t help. The useful info was from my aunt – that vargu were common around Tindivanam area few decades back, but requires more labour to sift and hence given up.
With curiosity continuing, I happen to read about an organic vegetable-cum-provision selling organisation in Pasumai Vikatan- volunteers like linux users group – selling them in Adayar. It is named nicely – reStore – well restore back our food to healthy one. Well, search ended here –
The first day I tasted Varagu – Pongal, I could realise how much we have lost to alien food habits. The reason why India is Diabetic and Hypertension capital is clear – forgotten grains – mainly. Now Varagu is regular in my house – dosa,idly, pongal, uppuma – just fits wherever rice fits. Similar is tale about other millets. For the past two months I buy from them regularly. Last week I could get Chola mavu- Jonna/jowar flour also. Next day it was the ‘jonna roti’ with kattirikkai kuttu – and rekindling my taste with destiny.
Well, using these millets have lot of advantage, some of them are
- They release sugar slowly – enough time for our body to produce required insulin. This is mainly because the coat of the grain is in tact and we take whole grain and not polished one.
- They are nutritious – well balanced at that – fibre,protein, iron etc.
- They require very little water and can grow in not-so-fertile lands also. (May be Kaveri, Palar and all such disputes vanish)
- They are disease and pest resistent
I will dedicate post sometime later about the scientific facts of millets. For now I request readers of this post to give it a try.
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