Talking about food, especially about traditional food has been my favourite topic after I got married. Food in India especially has so much history, it reveals who you are, your language, caste, region and religion! I am sure everyone agrees with this!
I grew up in a family where everyone used to talk “some strange language” than the people around or people in the society. I used to think, this must be some kind of secret language the family has. I couldn’t think that this is a language which is actually my mother tongue. Our community was called as “deshasthas” I never knew then that “Desh” is one of the regions in Maharashtra. I use to think that’s our “caste”. Now people from my community call themselves as “Dakshin Deshasthas” yes our ancestors belong to the Desh region of Mahaashtra.
Growing up in Karnataka/Bangalore, I always thought I am a Kannada girl, until I was married to a family where they strictly talk Marathi and my father in law said you are a “Marathi” girl! Then my Aaji told me yes we are Marathi, our ancestors were Maharashtrians! I always loved eating chapati with “gul and Thup” in my childhood, never thought that’s a part of Marathi in me making me love it!
I was bit confused about our dishes and I was not sure which one is Marathi, which one is local. I always thought we don’t have any special dishes which we can say this is ours! But as I started learning more about different cuisines, which happened only after coming to the UK, I started recognising we do have so much of our own recipes!
I think our ancestors were very good survivors, they became one in the society they lived, either in Tamail Nadu or Karnataka, they started eating, preparing the food local made but gave all “Marathi” name. For example, the Vettal Kolambu of Tamil Nadu we call it “Goddu Pitla” yes, we loved the name “Pitla” so started calling everything Pitla or Goddu Pitla, Sappak Pitle etc.
Because of this I always thought everything we cook/prepare has either come from one of the South Indian states.
Lately I have started talking to people about different preparations we do and realise they have no clue about it! Whether they are Tamil, Kannada or Telugu! I felt so happy that we do have our own recipes which I can say yes this is OURS!
We make lots of powders, which is to be eaten with hot rice and ghee. When I encountered with my Kannadiga friends they said they have no clue about this. I know Telugu people make this but that is completely with different ingredient. I grew up eating these powders as I used to hate vegetables and was a very fussy eater.
This powder we call it as “Bhathach powder” the powder that is eaten with rice. It has got all the 4 lentils, Kulith and red chillies. It’s like a “chutney powder”. We also make a powder which is ideally used during post pregnancy. Which is again prepared with tur dal, pepper corns and the main ingredient is curry leaves we call them “karepackach pood” I make this here in UK, it is very good for people who are suffering from anaemia, low iron, problem in digestion. With the same ingredients we also make “karepakach pitle” which is so good during winter time.
I have to add this here the famous “Bisi bele bath” of Karnatka is one of our kind people’s contribution. Only the difference is these are the Maharashtrians who migrated to Karnataka (they are no different to us) not to Thanjavur during Krishnadevaraya’s period, wanted to live under a “Hindu ruler”. Even these people are called as a “Deshasthas”.
The name itself can tell you it has both Kannada (bisi-hot, bele-lentil) and Marathi word (bhath-rice) in it.
The famous “sambhar” is our contribution. We call it “podnich sambhar” In this preparation, there is no any grinding, and pre prepared powders required. The other sambhar (red one from Karnataka is different) this is an alteration of “amti dal” where they replaced “kokum” to tamarind paste. This is very simple dish, which has very few spices and easily digestible. Which is cooked just like “mudda bhaji” but with different vegetables.
It is very sad that the part of this migration from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu has been forgotten and people don’t know anything about it. But thanks to the modern day’s technology, now people are learning more about different cutinises, different regions and the origin and so on.
I am very proud to say our ancestor did a great job. Even though completely cut off from their “mother land” they still retained the language (bit twisted but hey ho) and keep inventing different dishes which could keep them close to the culture/region they belong to.
Later, on joining the Facebook group Angat Pangat” I started realising that, we have lots of similarities in cooking, eating and the ingredients we use in our cooking. After all, the “Marathi” influence can’t vanish you see!
Shashirekha Prakash is a visual artist specializing in Thanjavur paintings, and is deeply interested in the rediscovery of her community’s (Thanjavur Deshastha) culture.