This morning I was wondering what it is about the idli that I dislike it so much. Is it the endless rounds of preparation? Soaking, grinding, fermenting and THEN cooking? Or is it the idli's inherent frailty as a dish to stand on its own? Its constant dependency on something more pungent to support it? Or is it the idli's inoffensive, non-threatening, bland nature that it's suitable only for those under 2 or anyone recovering from a particularly unpleasant illness? I don't know. All I know is that I have never taken a liking to the steamed rice cake - the English description doesn't quite fit, does it? A bit like Pattu mami in pant-shirt, not right at all!
And there's more. Idlis are fussy old things. No ordinary pans would do. It'd have to be a special perforated idli plate. And it has to be cooked only for so long. Any more or any less and it's a toss up between rock and raw batter for breakfast. Idlis remind me of that ugly cousin who insisted that the girl he marry meet a 101 conditions. You just want to ask him to shove it and get on with it!
And it doesn't stop there. There's this whole side-business of chutnies and sambar to accompany the idli. After all, you can't serve the idli on its own!
Yet, there I was on the first morning of a bank holiday weekend, soaking three portions of idli rice to one of whole ulutham paruppu. Adding a teaspoon of vendayam. Returning in the evening to grind them to a smooth, lump-free batter. Seasoning with salt and tucking the half-full pot into a corner in the boiler room. Waking up in the middle of the night to see if there was enough room in the pot for the batter when it doubles in volume. And wondering, not for the first time, why I even got started.
I'll spare you the rest of the agonising steps in this recipe. The end result was less than fluffy and would rate about 6 on a Saravana Bhavan idli scale. Still, when we stuffed our faces with idlis and molagapodi and washed it down with a glass of buttermilk, I sensed smug satisfaction spread all over my being. For a brief while, I felt like an ideal wife. One who feeds her family idli for breakfast, not dried cereal or worse, bread! I felt one with all my sisters back in India and elsewhere who follow the idli ritual every week. It was an inexplicably deep connection. I even resolved to ask my idli-making friends for tips on how to better the batter.
I would be lying if I said that I dislike the idli less now. My distaste for it remains just as strong. But an idli every six months or so shouldn't hurt. Unless I dropped it accidentally on my foot and broke it - the foot, not the idli.
cross posted at chaipani