The parippu curry was to die for: Roasted lentils, ground coconut, green chillies and a hint of jeera—the proportion had to be exact and the ingredients mixed just so to give it that special flavor—and a dollop of home-made ghee on top of it, with pappadams on standby to be crushed and mixed. Beneath it lay a mound of steaming rice slow-cooked on wood fire. And the rice itself was served on freshly-cut and washed banana leaves from the backyard.
Vegetarian fare that was a rarity in our home, like many a Syrian Christian family in Central Kerala. Yes, there was the Easter Holy Week but those were reluctant meals instead of the eagerly-awaited ones on Onam day.That there was an art to how it is served is something that never crossed our minds as kids. We were busy with the excitement of having food on banana leaves sitting cross-legged on the floor.
The tongue of the leaf has to be on your left, and the dishes would start from there. There was no stinginess with regard to upperi and sharkkara varatti; we were free to have as much of those as we wanted. Next to it would be the cheru pazham, followed by mango and lime curry; the luscious erissery made from a mishmash of pumpkin, red beans and grated coconut; the humble pulissery, the sweet and sour kaalan; the pineapple pachadi; the confluence of koottu curry; the lip smacking inji curry; almost all the vegetables coming together for avial; the kichadi, and a cabbage thoran were the usual suspects. Olan made an appearance now and then. And rice—always the red, kuthari variety. And, at least two varieties of payasams rounding it off.