Thursday, August 30, 2007

29 August 2007: Food, Glorious Food!

Pooris for breakfast. Dough is also wheat flour, water, salt, but a little denser than for chapattis. Same process of breaking off an amount and rolling it into a ball. Instead of using flour to roll them out (like for chapattis) Dr. Srivalli dips the edge in the oil, which has been heating on the stove in order to deep fry the pooris. She said they are supposed to be round, but to make it easier, she just cuts each rolled out disc (thinner than pie crust) into 4 wedges. Two wedges fit into her pan of sunflower oil, and they puff up quite quickly – a quick turn and they are done. She places them in a colander lined with newspaper. A while into the cooking process, the (now oil-soaked) newspaper is a little too close to the flame on the stove and catches fire. I am thinking, “great! Oil fire!” but she calmly blows on the flame, using her slotted spatula to knock off the burning paper, no problem. We eat the pooris with a stew of potatoes, carrots, and maybe cabbage. I have already forgotten how to say “I like it” in Kannada, but I did! (Apologies to my Indian friends reading this who can probably make pooris and chapattis in their sleep!)

Dr. Srivalli invited me to go to a wedding with her tonight. (Unlike American weddings, there is not a strict guest list at Indian weddings, no seating chart – the more the merrier I guess!) Well, it was the first night of the wedding, anyway (traditionally, they are three days), dedicated to the bridegroom and his family. It was her co-sister (wife of her husband’s brother)’s sister’s son’s wedding. We arrived around 7:30 or 8, and were greeted by the family as we were ushered into a back room to meet people. The activities were already in full swing. The bride was under a structure, with some rituals going on, while the bridegroom tended to family members, greeted guests, etc. Many people we seated and milling and chatting in this hall; evidently it was not important to witness the ceremony going on. Then we went into the dining hall, where places were set with large banana leaves. Upon sitting down, we dribbled water from a waiting cup on the leaf to clean it, rubbing it around the leaf and then shaking off extra water. Then men dressed only in the traditional cloth, ends folded up, and a string wrapping around from left shoulder to right hip and back again (Brahmin string?), came around and served the dinner, a different dish from each man. Some dishes, like paisa (tapioca, cardamom, nuts) were served with a ladle, while other rice dishes were served by hand. For dry dishes there were potatoes, cabbage, one of those raw spouted bean dishes, and another carrot-y thing; plain rice (“anna!” called the little girl next to me), dal, some sambar, a rice dish with pieces of pappadum in it, pappadum, a bird’s nest looking thing of crispy noodle things, another sambar I did not take (so much food!), that orange sweet… I think that’s it! They came around a number of times offering seconds. As we left the dining hall, they were already cleaning to make room for the next round of people, who were eagerly crowding around the door. Afterwards we all went to a long communal sink with many faucets to wash our hands, and people also rinsed out their mouths once or twice (this must be what the woman wanted me to do in Ghantaprabha!). Then we chewed betel nut with a leaf that had a pink paste rubbed on it and then was folded up small. I didn’t realize I was supposed to keep chewing it for a while, and swallowed it pretty quickly. It makes your mouth all numb and tingly, but has a refreshing taste. Dr. Srivalli says it’s supposed to be good for digestion.

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