It's Onasadya time. The small-scale industries are at it with their delicacies, markets are overflowing with vegetables and the supermarkets are replete with packaged goodies. The excitement has reached its zenith in Kerala, and if you listen intently, you will hear a hundred restaurateurs shouting out their Onam menu.
Bypassing that, if you've decided to prepare a quaint homemade sadya, there are a few things to consider. While we Keralites are much too familiar with our dishes and find absolutely nothing wrong with them, few of us would have missed the startling comments of the uninitiated non-Mallus when they've sat down for a morsel of the Kerala food. If you have served/gorged on Onasadyas at homes and offices outside Kerala, you are familiar with the scene. So, if you're expecting non-Keralite (non-south Indian) friends/family for your special Onasadya, these are some of the roadblocks you'll inevitably find, and we've ways to ease you through them.
The invincible coconut oil
While we know most of your non-Mallu friends would love a traditional Onasadya, a few might have their apprehensions regarding the coconut oil. Tell them that the coconut oil is a reservoir of goodness and that they are valued more than the much-marketed olive oil by some scientists. It shouldn't be long before they warm up considerably to the acquired taste.
More coconut? Yes sir!
Most people love coconut, but the Malayali loves it a little more! So, if your friends find too much coconut around for their comfort, quickly pass on the sambar and stir fries without coconut, and wait for them to reach out to the coconut dishes again!
Upon a plantain leaf
Planning on a traditional sadya on the plantain leaf? Think twice before pouring a ladleful of payasam onto the leaves of those inexperienced in slurping it up in one swift motion off the leaf. Offer a cup first but if they're enthusiastic, let them try drinking payasam in the most delicious way possible; it could get messy, but what's Onam without some good-natured fun?
Sitting them down?
Are you planning to lay the leaves on the floor? Check on how many are comfortable relishing a sadya sitting in 'ardha padmasana'. If there are older people, make sure you serve their food on a leaf on the table.
Tie up the mundu!
If the menfolk insist on turning up in the traditional attire of the Malayali men, help them wear it. A little adventure does no harm, and they'll love it for sure.
Roll out the cardinal rule
The first rule while sitting down for the Onasadya is to shed all inhibitions and aim for fun. Mix, blend, combine, and make your own concoctions because there would be a minimum of 15 items on your leaf. So tell your non-Keralite friend to not be startled by the veteran who just cracked a pappadam into the payasam and relished it with a hint of fresh lime pickle. It is, after all, a celebration of food!