Adhe Karandi and Other Brahmin Beliefs

April 5, 2011

I come from a somewhat aacharam family. Cryptic though the title of the post is, I will highlight certain kinds of gastronomical behaviour very specific to the Tamil Brahmin community. I am sure everyone faces this kind of conduct wherever they belong. But since I know best about where I come from, I will proceed to write about the same.

Adhe Karandi

My dad and I think twice, nay thrice, before going out for dinner in a veg-cum-non-veg hotel before we put forward the plan to Amma. Once we diplomatically convince her about its quality and ambience, she will shriek, “Adhe karandi!  He will use the same ladle for both the veg and non-veg curries!” followed by an audible gasp. When we occasionally dine in Pizza Hut, we have to endure a constant lecture about the same karandis being used. I gently remind her that Pizza Hut is an international food joint and they probably are neater than we are at home. She will shoot at me her trademark glare. Once, she had an ice cream in McDonald’s. Adhe karandi, I reprimanded her. Ice cream ku enga di karandi, she shot back. These mothers!

Brinji, Biriyani, Kuruma, Parotta

Let me drop a suggestion: never utter these words at my place. My mom will frown and nod along to whatever you say, but mentally she will be disapproving of your vocabulary and your taste in healthy food. Krish Ashok had written an extensive post on the same. I refrain from linking you to it for the fear that he may get notified again. See comments on my very first post to know what I am talking about.

Echal and Paththu

Another fetish as far as food is concerned. This time, it’s about how you consume it. Echal refers to basic hygiene while eating – one does not eat what was or is being eaten by others, which I am totally ok with. Nevertheless, it does slightly irritate when Amma tsk-tsk’s when I share a Coke with my sister or eat a murukku half eaten by her. Paththu refers to separating and ensuring that items that spoil easily and items that stay fresh longer do not touch each other when you keep them all together at the dinner table. I know, it is complicated and I always mix them up. It gets even more difficult to follow when you have to wet your hands (symbolical of washing them) after you touch items of one of the categories before you touch the items belonging to the other. By now, you would know how futile an exercise it is. I tell my Mom too. And end up getting one of her famous glares.

No to Onions and Garlic

Negative kriya it seems. These vegetables instill a negative aura in you. Or so it is being said. My paternal great-grandfather never used to eat cabbage or mushroom, because the former is called muttaikose in Tamil (muttai-egg) and the latter nai-kodai (dog’s umbrella). My maternal grandfather, a sastrigal, bellows at the mention of garlic. For me, the smell of garlic rasam is irresistible. For him, it is equivalent to the smell of half-cooked meat. Sorakkai or bottle gourd has not been spared either. Not being able to make any correlations between its English and Tamil names, I ask my father why it has been ostracized. He says it may be because it has all the nutrients that meat has. Makes me wonder why egg-plant has been conveniently forgotten.

Sesha Saapadu

Sesha saapadu refers to the entire fare done on the occasion of Devasam. I love it. If you are in the mood to binge on food, this is tailored to suit your need. It covers every gustatory taste possible – without onion, garlic or chilli. So, how much ever you eat, you always get up feeling good about eating that much. Here too, we have a strange tradition whose roots I could not trace. The whole of Devasa samayal is to be cooked using brass utensils only. Even Mom and Dad don’t know why.

Navarathri Sundal

One reason why even the guys love Navarathri is because of the various sundals they get to eat. All through my 20 Navarathris, I have never once seen the sundal getting over in any house. And the largest amount of sundal I get always is the karamani sundal that I hate and never the channa sundal that I love. My ingenious neighbor had the idea of whipping up her own recipe of sundal sambhar from all her sundal collections. Since she was very generous about how much she gave us just for a taste, you should know how good (or otherwise) it tasted.

I am not sure whether I like or do not like people I live with adhering to the above said habits. I do not like to follow it for sure. But they are an integral part of my life here. In a way, they go a long way in making what I am today, as all traditions do. If you have any such conducts or behaviours running in your family, do comment below and share them with our readers.

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11 Responses to “Adhe Karandi and Other Brahmin Beliefs”

  1. ak said

    Ha ha! Great post!
    Reminds me about a lot of things… I have still not convinced my mother to have a burger at McD for obvious reasons!
    She still does not approve of my McD visits!
    KFC is a strict no-no! It has Chicken in its name!
    I am not ‘supposed’ to eat in veg and non-veg hotels! 😛
    Lots more I can’t remember now! 🙂

  2. Choker said

    The look on my paati’s face whenever I say I had kothu barotta for lunch is priceless 😀
    Nice post! I bet there are many more traditions 😀

  3. why is it that the shraadham food should be eaten only by the members of the family and not any outsiders?? Not even the cows on the road! :O

  4. S P Suresh said

    Oh young one belonging to a hopelessly uninformed generation, haven’t you heard of “Ettu soraikkaai karikku udhavaadhu!”?? So you don’t use it in any kari! Why not koottu, you may ask? There you have me!! I’ll have to try to come up with something else!

  5. Yuppie said

    OK here goes this is what makes sense to me (some explanation):

    No garlic is bcoz most iyers were meant to be sastrigal, meaning they had to recite a lot of stuff, onions and garlic smell never dies. So no eppam no problem!

    And sesha sappadu: it was supposed to be gastronomically pleasing as they are not supposed to eat anything until the devasam gets over.

    Hope this makes sense. And ofcourse not all of us turned out to be sastrigals.

  6. Xanax said

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  7. Bharat said

    While trying to search for the history of the devasam saappadu I got directed here. The reason for why a lot of the food you mentioned (cabbage for eg) not being consumed is not just weird translations. The way my paati (who was super cool about us eating kootu parrotta etc even and many times would suggest adhe karandhi restaurnats) explained to me was that these foods were not endemic to the indian sub-continent and were introduced by the British. In a few brahmin houses people of my paati’s era will still refer to these vegetables as english bhaji or enjish kaikari. So much so that on those special days besides cabbages they will not touch potatoes (which are fairly ubiquitous in Indian households today). Devasam being one of the more sacred days the tradition has carried on. For example the root served during devasam is never potato. It will be seppan kazhangu. A lot of other vegetables are also an absolute no on these days. I am trying to find more sources, but the internet is silent. And very few knowledgable people of that generation remain.

    (Onion and garlic are not part of this logic. I am not sure what happened here. Must have been some cultural necessity. Like how meat eating was not anthema to vedic era brahmins but after buddhism and jainism gained popularity this became such a strong dogma that even the thought of eating at a restaurant that also serves meat makes your mother angry.)

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