Sunday, February 18, 2007

South Indian Cuisine on the net....

As you probably realised by now....this post is about South Indian Cuisine on the net....or the lack of it...Yesterday, I suddenly wanted to eat kaara kuzhambu. Not the Vathal Kuzhambu my mother makes and labels kaara kuzhambu...I wanted to eat the real thing. The Authentic kaara kuzhambu with garlic. I asked my mother and she had no clue how to make it. She told me to ask a friend. Friends? Here? All my friends here are from the north of the Vindhyas. So, they had no idea just what kaara kuzhambu was, much less how to make it. So, here I was, doing what is obvious to any tech-savvy individual, googling it!

Here is where exactly my grudge against the Internet started. While you get about half a million recipes when you google Gobi Manchurian, or Paneer Butter Masala, all I got after half an hour of searching for kaara kuzhambu was one measly recipe for onion vathal kuzhambu. Anyone who has tasted the two will know what the difference is. Finally, I gave up and typed "South Indian Recipes" instead. Even there, all I got was a handful of sites with one tiny section dedicated to South Indian Recipes. And pray, what did I find there? The standard sambhar and rasam recipes that any Chennai born girl who knows to cook who is worth her salt will know how to make! Aaaaarghh!! This was frustrating. It took me a solid 45 minutes (no exaggerations there) to find a decent recipe for kaara kuzhambu. Even that was so complicated that I gave up my efforts and just made it the way I thought it was made. I am happy to say it turned out quite well.

This incident set me thinking. Does India always have to mean North India? Not that I have anything against the north, but it is rather irritating to see the same stereotypes reinforced in every aspect of life. It makes me think that the importance of a sub-culture is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the capital. I can't help thinking this way because Tamil Nadu and Tamil culture are so conspicuously absent from the collective conscience of people outside India that one cannot help but wonder about its importance in the overall scheme of things. This indifference is not restricted to Tamil Nadu or its culture. It is the same case with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala, in the meantime, reinforces another stereotype. That of God's Own Country. Well....granted that Kerala is a beautiful place. I do agree. But that is not the only beautiful place south of the Vindhyas. Anyone who has travelled along the western coast of Karnataka or has toured the southern districts of Madurai, Thirunelveli, and Thanjavur will agree with me. The greenery is unrivalled. The paddy fields are a striking green, or golden, depending on when you visit these places. So, why is that India is always associated with the colourful clothes of Rajasthan and the sandy Thar desert? Where are we going wrong? Is it really possible to capture the essence of India in a single picture? Or even in a set of pictures? Is it not something that must be lived, not seen?

Its cuisine is as good as anything one can find in the North. One visit to a restaurant in Paris will tell you. Variety is a bad word for these people. There is South Indian cuisine in some restaurants in the Indian quarter. Even that is so bad that my 11 year old cousin will cook better. When it comes to vegetarian cuisine, you only have a choice between Paneer Butter Masala, Gobi Manchurian, Dal Makhni and Brinjal Bharta. Well...that explains it all. In one word, there is no choice. For goodness' sake, if I wanted Dal, I would make it. Why would I spend 20 euros on it in a restaurant?

That is it for the moment. I have to force myself to stop. Otherwise I never will. I think I am completely justified in my frustration. What say?



PS: I have tried correcting spelling mistakes in previous posts....Nita...your job to let me know if there are any other.

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