Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chakkara Vellam- A simple drink from the olden days, sprinkled with tales from Kannur.

A simple unpretentious drink by description yet the moment you gulp down that first sip the suspicious glance hidden at the corner of the eyes earlier, turns into one of a pleasant surprise followed by nodding of head in agreement. And if such a down to earth blend is accompanied with some vivid tales and imagery from the past, that’s a recipe to win your hearts. Such recipes come with a soul and character of its own.

Here’s one such treasure that came in my mailbox last Monday. I let you all have a glance at some parts of that mail where the daughter, Prathibha captures her dad’s tales from the past in a very engaging mail which took me to a bygone era I ve watched only in movies. Let’s extend a warm welcome for this dad-daughter duo.

Hi Shn,
Long time since I mailed you. How have you been?
Warning : Long Mail!! Read when you have time :)

I just checked your blog and saw the kinnathappam post. Used to love it when achamma used to make it. But hate the one you get in bakeries these days, esply that raw taste. Did you know bakeries used to be called appakoodu? Dad tells me people rarely used to buy stuff from appakoodu and usually snacks are made at home in bulk. Dad's younger bro used to clean up all kinnathapam kept at home and when guests come, it will be just the dabba which they keep snacks. And achamma used to make achan run to the appakoodu to get snacks.

Since you have been collecting long-lost recipes, I thought I will send you this one. Chakkara-Vellam(water). According to my dad, this drink used to be popular in his youth. If I quote him "eppozhokkeya ee pilleru oru koopiyum thurannu thanniyadichirikkunne, pandokke, aval kozhachathum chakkara vellavumayirunnu. Kaikku nalla bhalamulla oruthan aval kozhakkum. Innathe pole machine-il idicha aval alla.. atha kozhakkan menakkeda..." He fondly remembers the time when people used to gather around/below some bridge in Kannur and have aval and chakkara-vellam.

I tried this out and so thought will send you the recipe.

By Chakkara , it means karipetti or pananchakkara (and not sharkkara). They used to be wrapped up in coconut/palm leaves made into a kotta. We get Karipetti here, small blocks of it. ……………..

Chop 2 shallots finely. Add a small block of mashed karipetti to it and mix with water. Salt is optional. It can be used instead of moru-vellam. I am attaching the pics, they dont look all that great and shallot pieces look quite big in it. Frankly, it took a moment to adjust to the taste. But I liked biting into the kutty shallot peices when you drink it. It is different from all the other drinks I have tasted. So I'd recommend you try it out once. After all, there is absolutely no effort in making it. ……………

Dad has a background story for it also.

Pandokke aalkaar marichal, relatives-ne okke ariyikkaan othiri dooram nadannu ponam. So the neighbours and friends start out to different directions immediately after the death is announced. They might have to walk for hours or sometimes days(Talking about the days when even telegram was pretty rare). This drink is simple that it can be made easily and the karipetti gives a lot of energy they need to walk. The neighbours only do every arrangement for the funerals including cutting the trees(esply maavu) and chopping it up into logs. So on the 16th day after death, the family of the deceased give food/sadhya to the neighbours and others who helped out in order to thank them for helping. Though these days the same tradition goes on of giving feast on 16th or 48th day after the death.

Take care

He fondly remembers the time when people used to gather around/below some bridge in Kannur and have aval and chakkara-vellam”. Well, reading that line, I was tempted to give it a try and I did. I must admit, it is a lovely pair. Considering the fact that both Aval Nanachathu and Chakkara Vellam do not require any cooking, I could very well see her dad’s point of having it not only as a simple snack and drink but also as an energy drink to those people who walked miles and hours together to pass the message to the relatives of the deceased.

Prathibha has asked to mix finely chopped shallots/small pearl onions/Kunjulli and crushed Karipetti or Panamchakkara ( a variety of palm sugar), with water and written that adding salt is optional. But I added salt and noticed that it brings out the distinct flavours of palm sugar very prominently. I didn’t have Karipetti or Panamchakkara at home, but had a block of Thenginchakkara which is similar but made from the sap of coconut palm, I guess. While sipping it , I was having a strange thought it could very well be converted to an exotic mocktail/refreshing drink if you serve it chilled in a stylish martini glass and baptize with a fashionable catchy name!! :)

Prathibha , Thanks a ton for sharing such an interesting read and also letting me publish it here. Hope you and your dad will have more tales and recipes of the past, to share with all of us. I extend my whole-hearted gratefulness to both of you :)

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