An Iyer by birth and traditions being followed at home, I have met more than enough TamBrahms to confirm my belief that a majority of us are “horizontally-challenged”, or should I just say ‘fat’ without being politically correct. It wasn’t very difficult to find the reason for TamBrahm-flab.
It all boils (cooking method reference unintentional) down to our appetite combined with traditions. Traditions equate to ‘reasons to eat’ in our lingo.
TamBrahm, as a community, believe in ‘modalla chaapdu, baaki ellam pina paatukalam’. Every occasion: Diwali, Dussehra, Pongal, Avani-Avitam, Skandashshti, Krishna Janmashtami, Karthikai or any other day has a specific food item. And if you are thinking, it is just on occasions, try counting the number of occasions and I am sure the number will be more than the number of wickets namma veetu paiyan Ashwin has recently taken. ‘The TamBrahm food guide’ or ‘Eat – The Iyer Way’, if written, will be the books we will never bother reading because eating is a trait which passes on from parent to child as effortlessly as Rajnikanth catches his cigarette with his mouth.
A minimum of three courses with a ‘payasam’ (the dessert) round in between the second and third course is the most common sight in lavish food arrangements in any proper joint family, with mamis ever-ready to cook. First course begins with rice with generous helping of ghee, and small amount of dal with Sambaar in tow. Second course is rice and rasam, with chips or papadaam. All this is served with a minimum of four torans/poriyals/kootaans (aka curries). A ‘payasam’ round (short & sweet) before the third course. Finally, the famous tachimammu or ‘taeer-saadam‘ (curd rice for the uninitiated). A banana or another glass of ‘payasam’ to wrap it up is never frowned upon.
Christians have the time of Lent, when they give up something for God: meat, alcohol or the likes. Muslims fast during Ramzan, a whole month. Most North Indian Hindus fast at least once day a week: for Lord Shiva on Monday, Hanuman on Tuesday, Ganapati on Wednesday, Shirdi Sai on Thursday, Santoshi Mata on Friday or Shani bhagwan on saturday. At least they rest on a Sunday (or there might be some fasting for Sun God).
‘TamBrahms’ and ‘fasting’ can never be written in the same sentence (Did I just attempt the impossible??). Even on the Amavasya nights, when we think we are fasting, it is okay to have ‘palahaaram‘ i.e. stuff like dosas, idlis, upma etc.
Anyways, I am not going to change any of that and continue eating food, the TamBrahm-way. And I bet many will agree. If Popeye was an Iyer, his song would start with something like …
‘I am what I am,
I eat, what I can!
I am Popeye the Iyer man!!’
I cannot agree more when they say, “If you can’t fit in your jeans, blame it on your genes”