Culinary traditions that are culturally exclusive are fortunes handed over through generations. Customs of communities die out when they get scattered and some get lost in time as well. Palakkad Iyer cuisine is one among them.
However, the hope has not lost yet, Thanks to Kaveri Venkatesh. This Pune-based school teacher has been throwing light on some of the sumptuous Iyer cuisines through her blog 'Palakkad Chamayal' for the past five years.
Chamayal is a variant of the Tamil term “samayal”, which means cooking. “Palakkad cuisine is very unique, especially those of Iyer communities,” says Kaveri.
“Since Palakkad is a border district, a good number of people living there follow both Kerala and Tamil Nadu cultures. We celebrate Onam and Pongal alike. We imbibe the virtues of both the cultures,” Kaveri said. The shared identity has made way for an exclusive culture -that of the Iyers who stood out from both mainstream Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
“Palakkad Brahmins are originally from Tamil Nadu, particularly, Tanjore district. Though we are physically located in Kerala, our mother tongue is Tamil, heavily influenced by Malayalam vocabulary. Over the years we have built up our own individual culture and established an identity of our own,” she added.
Though Kaveri's family hails from Puthucode village in Palakkad, she was born and brought up in Chennai. Most of her family and relatives have been moved out of Palakkad, but they visit the place every year.
“A good number of families from Iyer community in the region have moved out of Palakkad and many of the culinary practices followed by the community were forgotten or lost in time. I would like to revive them and keep the traditions alive through my blog,” Kaveri said.
The idea of starting a food blog featuring Palakkad cuisines first hit Kaveri in 2012. When her second daughter was born, she had to quit her job. Knowing her passion for cooking and food writing, one of her cousins suggested to start a blog. She hasn't looked back since then. The blog currently has over 17 thousand followers on Facebook and 32,00 followers on Google Plus.
She says that their traditional cuisine is quite healthy as most of the dishes are cooked in steam and with minimal use of oil. The vegetarian cuisine makes extensive use of dals, and coconut. The blog features dishes like Molagootal and Rasakalan. An amazing food photographer by herself, Kaveri posts brilliant pictures of mouth-watering dishes too.
Kaveri is currently living with her husband Venkatesh, who is a business analyst, and their two daughters in Pune.
“Now that I have started working again, I will have to manage some spare time to keep the blog going. Neither Keralites nor Tamils are trained to make authentic Palakkad Iyer recipes. Yet, many are willing to try and find out more about the unique culinary practices. I would like to share this treasured knowledge and save these awesome recipes from passing into oblivion,” she summed up.
Here is the link to her blog: http://palakkadcooking.blogspot.in/