A mail on Elephant Garlic Festival and a Medicinal (Stinky!) Garlic Payasam!
Don’t you love long juicy mails? We hardly get long letters like this, these days! Here is what I got from Chitra Amma yesterday, and I was very tempted to share it given the topic! I have edited names etc for obvious reasons, and provided some transalations!
Dear (long list of Chitra Amma’s children, grandchildren, siblings, sisters inlaw, newphews, nieces - their spouses, etc)
Portland seems to be a land of plenty. People here are very relaxed, friendly and they take time to concentrate on issues like conservation of greenery, eco friendly activities, minimizing pollution, growing organic food, encouraging home gardening not only for aesthetic reasons but also to protect and enhance birds and other small animal life. A big NO to fertilizers and pesticides. Of course the Pacific Wild West is the biggest asset providing them with an extremely fertile virgin soil.
A half an hour drive from home in any direction leads us to the vast bountiful landscapes consisting of golden wheat fields, orchards, farms, land growing flowers and even Christmas trees with the mountain ranges lining the horizon.
Like we say children and God are present in kondadum idathillae (where they are celebrated), the farmers here do kondadafy (celebrate) each and every produce as it is harvested every year. The festive spirit and the happiness they spread through their bounty harvest only reminds me of SriSri Ravishankar and Sukhabodhananda who eternally stress on ‘celebrating life’ through their speeches.
There was a lavender festival a fortnight ago. Last week end an Elephant Garlic Festival (called Fun Stinks!!!) was celebrated. We visited the festival grounds after collecting our customary coffee and chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks in about thirty minutes. There was a buggy at the entrance waiting to give us a lift to the grounds. By the time I could sit back, the driver said “There we are”, and we really felt foolish to have taken the buggy for such a short drive.
The big banner announcing the Elephant Garlic Festival fluttered to welcome us.
There were stalls and stalls selling fresh garlic each the size of a big mosambi (sweet lime). Some stalls had braided them into garlands for display and there were garlic flowers arranged in vases. The ingenious farmers also sold various garlic preparations, which could be used for cooking. Garlic powdered with a variety of spices in various combinations were sold in small bottles which could be used for garnishing soups, for making various dips, or for dressing salads.
A photo-shy old lady had displayed yummy jams prepared out of mango, cherry, plum strawberry, blueberry and many other fruits. A lick of the jam was offered to us in tiny disposable spoons for sampling. They did taste yummy at first, but left us gaping with the startling flavour of garlic which was laced in it in the end.
We had a similar experience when we tasted the garlic – Please believe me - ICE CREAM! We bought only one cup and after we tasted it our faces contorted involuntarily, leaving poor A (Chitra Amma’s son) to finish up the whole cup. Three cheers to A’s DON’T WASTE policy! I did not trust him at all when he said ‘Not bad. Nannadan irukku’! (Not Bad. Its quite nice) I was reminded of M Sitti’s (an old aunt) story which Amma had narrated so many times, of how she prepared poondu payasam for her bananthi (pregnant) daughter, in a charcoal choola in the bathroom of all places, and how she made her daughter drink it soon after her oil bath – in the bath room itself- all to avoid evil eyes!
Popcorns with Garlic and Parmesan cheese were good. They also sold a dish with garlic cheese and potatoes which we did not try, and many other meat preparations. There were many stalls selling garlic pickles, some preserved in vinegar some in lime with a variety of spices, barring our lip smacking chilly powder and oil.
There were stalls selling herbal bath soaps which were really aromatic- lavender, lemon, peppermint, apple cedar etc etc and they were prescribed for various skin problems.
The rest of them were all arts and crafts material – garden crafts to install in gardens, models and candles made out of bee wax. Remember Amma used to make them and she had once exhibited them in the Dasara exhibition? Beads and trinkets, Tshirts; there was a place for kids where they could jump and bounce on inflated platforms , an artificial post for ‘mountain climbing’ and ‘rappling’.
On the whole it was like the Dasara exhibition on a smaller scale. Carrying a few things that T (Chitra Amma’s Daugther-in-law) bought – a jam bottle, a peppermint soap, a bottle of seasoning, the half empty pop corn packet, the four garlic pods we got as samples (one pod was the size of one whole garlic we get back at Blore), and a strong aroma(!) of garlic in our mouths - we drove towards The Queen Of Sheeba for a sumptuous dinner. The dinner for the whole family in one big plate included three large injeeras (two extra injeeras were also ordered) served with a dozen vegetable and lentil samples. We tried to wash away the garlic smell with a hot glass of ginger tea before dinner arrived. . We relished the Ethiopian dinner listening to the soft drone of an Ethiopian song, which sounded unmistakably like the yester year songs of Thyagaraja Bagavatar!
That is all the news for this week! All well here. Rest in my next weekly.
I insisted that Amma give me the recipe of that terrible sounding garlic payasam! "It is traditional, and therefore finds place in our blog" was my argument. She has reluctantly shared it – with all warnings!