Sunday, August 30, 2009

A forgotten taste from a lunch box…..

A forgotten taste from a lunch box…..that’s exactly what came to my mind , two weeks back when I was enjoying that plate of Aval Nanachathu. As I sat there and savored each bite, a murky memory of a similar snack wrapped me up, taking me back to those days when I looked forward to my friend M opening her lunch box during the break after three hours of lectures in the morning. If her rectangle box in red, was stuffed with white dampened beaten rice with flecks of yellow here and there, I had to get atleast a couple spoonfuls before she could satiate her hunger….I clearly remember how that natural sweetness of grated coconut gelled beautifully with the plump and white beaten rice and how moist it was even though her mother packed it early in the morning itself…..and the simplicity of the dish was further augmented by the natural sweetness from the tiny bits of our naadan nenthrappazham, a variety of ripe plantains available in Kerala. My taste-buds loved it though I generally preferred something very spicy for lunch time.

The visuals of my friend’s face and the taste memories she gifted me from her lunch box kept playing at the back of my mind for the last two weeks. Though I lost touch with my friend long back, I had never forgotten her, especially her mother. Both of them had a special place in my conversations with CJJ whenever I tried to paint a picture of those people who touched my heart and left their handprints on me. M’s mother was one of those unfortunate ones who had to confine herself to the four walls of her home because of a medical mishap that happened due to the carelessness of a medical practioner while conducting a surgery on her……..carelessness from the fraction of a second and she was a prisoner for a lifetime of infections and ill-health … imprisonment in her own house because of someone’s mistake!!

I met this woman personally only once at their place and it was hard for me to believe that she had been suffering physically all those years……though a frail and pale figure, with crevices beginning to form around her eyes, her face still beamed with a poised and warm smile ….and the ‘pottu’ , the red dot on her forehead gave a glow to her face and that day she made this snack one more time for me, knowing very well that I was quite fond of it.

As I was chewing on this slice from the past, I was also reminded of an incident M once shared with me. One evening when she reached home from college, a group of wage workers, transported from the neighbouring states, were concreting the street in front of their house and a bunch of their kids were playing around. To M’s sheer surprise, she noticed that all those kids were wearing frocks and shots in a very familiar fabric……the same fabric her mother had recently used for stitching a salwar kurta for M and it seems since she had some more fabric left from that, she made use of her leisure time and got some frocks and shirts and shots stitched for those kids!!!

The same woman who had so much of health issues and illness, spent hours in front of the sewing machine stitching clothes for a bunch of kids whom she had not seen until two days ago!! A selfless deed that brought smile on the faces of those innocent kids and a note of gratefulness & happiness on their parents’ faces……and the pleasure of giving she enjoyed ignoring all the physical discomforts she was going through………one of those very rare people who made me think that we can touch other’s lives if we want to and if we have the heart, irrespective of the situation we' re in!!!

This afternoon I tried to recreate that lunch box treat I had forgotten all these years but I missed that taste from M’s lunchbox! Here’s how I made it as a teatime snack:

  • 1 cup white beaten/flattened rice ( vella aval)
  • ½ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1/8 cup sugar or to taste
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 2 pods of green cardamom, crushed ( adjust as per the strength of the spice)
  • Half of a ripe plantain, quartered into small bits
  • In a plate/mixing bowl, blend grated coconut, sugar and crushed cardamom pods by mixing with hands. To this add beaten rice/vella aval and milk and start crushing and squishing with your hands; combine everything until beaten rice is soaked and plump; check if you require more sweetness and adjust accordingly and finally add the ripe plantain bits and mix gently. If it is not moist yet, you may add one or two tablespoon extra milk and combine everything by mixing with hands.
  • Serve with tea/coffee as an evening snack

Related Posts:
Puttu Uppumavu Aval Payasam

For more , Check complete recipe index

We wish you all a beautiful, warm and fun filled ONAM !


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  1. Happy Onam Cjj & Shn! Loved your lunch box snack! And the pic is so pretty! :) Will I ever get to see your pretty face? :)

  2. Wow!I didn't know there are so many recipes with beaten rice. This sure is a treat to all those fussy kids,sweet and healthy!

  3. Just got back from work - no time for lunch and was so HUNGRY!!! I thought i could have a look at your website to satisfy my hunger and LO there was this perfect healthy snack.. So in 3 mins , I made it and have just eaten :).. YUMMY!!!


  4. Dear Shn,

    I just cannot understand how is that nearly everything that u are describing recently is made at my place in the same way as u have described herein...this aval recipe, the puttu-convert-upma,the kappa puzhuk with the hot dip, makeover-ed pappadum...i do realise tht most malayalee homes have the same dishes..but this similarity is a bit too uncanny...

    In other news, i have moved out of home (again!), so like in London, ur recipes at present do bring back memories of home while i eat ladies' fingers and brinjals...

  5. This time its nt ur recipe bt the write-up tht hs triggered a chain of memories in my head....I hd one of my worst nightmares cum true today...and wen I read ur write up especially the part whr u sd tht we cn still mk a difference to the world no matter what situation we are in....gvs me the courage to hang in life.....and gvs me hope tht these bad times will soon pass away.....
    Anyways...U & CJJ hv a gr8 funfilled Onam....and hope to c pics of ur Onam Sadya posted on the blog !!!

  6. Hi,

    It was loooong back that I had this dish, but seeing the snap it seems like yesterday and I could remember the taste so well..

    Great snack :)


  7. Wow! Loved the simplicity. Happy Onam :)

  8. truly a wonderful recipe.
    tastes good with other fruits as well.
    i was transported to my college days as i went thru your post

  9. Really, the simplest things taste the best, don' they? I wonder why our children refuse to eat anything that is not advertised on TV without even trying it. Really poignant reading about your friend and her Mom.

  10. Nice one....Aval vaangichitundu....Nombaayaalentha...Im making this for iftar:)...Thx....really a forgotten recipe....It has reborn in my memories now...

  11. One more Aval delicacy :) In fact though most of these dishes we have enjoyed in childhood, I had totally forgotten abt them. Reading ur posts reminds me of all those variety snacks n curries from mom's n grand ma's kitchen.. Thanks a lot :)

  12. Happy Onam to you both and thanks for the frequent posting.

  13. As usual, you turn even the simplest recipes into an experience, readable just for the stories.

  14. Happy onam Shn!
    Yummy aval dish. I was introduced to this ages ago by my mallu neighbour and I am just love them. :-)

    Awesome pic!

  15. Happy Onam to you and family too.And thanks for all the lovely recipes.

  16. sweetened Aval craving now a days ?? :) Very filling snack....simple and the best.

  17. The aval actually reminds me of a fancy dress costume which i brings memories of me holding a kotta to the stage and saying.."avalee avalee...." :-P

    Happy Onam to you and your family!!!:-)

  18. Dear Shn,

    Happy Onam to you.Just wanted to let you know thatI'm a big fan of the way you write and your recipes as well.Love the little anecdotes and stories from your home town.
    I've tried out a bunch of recipes from your blog - the mango pulisseri and potato stew.Turned out awesome and tasted divine.Thanks so such for sharing.


  19. Happy Onam dear and wow tht looks delish...nice click

  20. Happy Onam dear.
    I was keeping on pondering who M is . Till I read the story. I knew aunty in her hay days. Believe me she was one hell of a women. I had spent lot of evenings in her house. And she was an amazing women. Your brought back memories.

  21. Happy Onam Shn!!! I came across your blog when I was looking for Parippu payasam recipe. I tried the recipe and it came out good.
    I love reading your blog and want to try the recipes. The introduction to every recipe is so great as if I am reading a story and I enjoy it. I am going to try the mango chammanthi tomorrow and I am sure it will be delicious.
    Keep writing!!!

  22. Your pictures are so beautiful, yet i wish some of them weren't as over exposed. If you're using a software, perhaps you could tone down the harshness. That way, i expect the pictures would reveal more texture.

  23. You are one lovely lady. it is the memories that makes the dish tastier.

  24. HApPY ONAM TO YOU AND CJJ.It was a nice write up about M and aunty ... iT DID BRING BACK MEMORIES....I have spent many days and evenings at M 's place and know very well what a wonderful women she is ... as you said a very self less women .. who even in her dire circumstances made the most out of her life was a nice read , Shn ...

  25. Hi Shn, I'm new here n have tried a few recipes loved them all...but i'm unable to take prints from this website...any reason???

  26. SHN,
    happy onam to you and your family..
    and a great write-up,throughly enjoyed it and i am reading it again now!!
    hugs and smiles

  27. I really must get my hands on some beaten rice to try recipes like this one.

  28. Hi,
    Your dish reminded me of my grandfather who would make this on saturday evening as a snack for me and my cousins. He used brown avil (considered nutritious than the white ones) and jaggery instead of sugar and he would give 2 big "urula" for each of us. He passed away 13 years ago and suddenly those memories came back reading your blog.
    I shall make this for my lunch tomarow. Thanks for sharing your simple receipe with those heartfelt stories


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