mAyAbazAru, vankAya pacci pulusu & ullipAya bellappulusu ...

Hari K Tadepalli (
Mon, 04 Aug 97 14:34:00 PDT

[Screenful -1]

Years of Non Resident Telugu (NRT) status has left me in a perpetual state 
of wanting genuine Telugu food, so much that sometimes I even dream of 
visiting a cousin's marriage, a local bhOjana hOtal in Guntur, a near relative's
obituary, or a festive sankrAnthi occassion. Only the backdrop of the dream 
changes, but the theme is constant - of myself seated comfortably before a 
metre long #ariTAku# duly garnished with all the goodies of Telugu 
bhOjanam viz.,  at least two different #kUralu#, preferably a mustard doused 
version (e.g., Ava peTTina ariTIkAya kUra), a second being a familiar fry (e.g, 
kanda, donDakAya, vankAya gutti kUra,...), at leat two or three different 
paccadlu (a local Indian restaturant here in the US might describe these 
culinary compositions as "fresh vegetable salads, generously added with the 
seasoning from the the choicest herbs from Southeast India, loaded with chilli 
pepper and fine ground in the native Andhra millstone to impart a grainy 
texture, served as a zesty accompaniment to you delicious Telugu meal...], at 
least two different liquid foods [I mean at least two from: pulusu, chaAru, 
sAmbAru, majjiga pulusu, ...], and one or more of: chikkaTi plain majjiga, 
gaDDa perugu (with a thick creamy mIgaDa topping), perugu pachchaDi 
(preferably made with one of: onions, poTlakAya, sorakAya, dOsakAya or 
tomATO), a serving or two of paramAnnam, deliciously flavored AvaDalu (I 
hate the terms "dahI vaDa" or "tair vaDai" that seem to divest us of our patent 
rights over these age old Telugu preparations), and the list goes on. 

To quell the list moderators' raised brows, here is a "relevant" literary 
question [like the proverbial delinquent student who reads Sidney Sheldon's 
sizzling pulp tucked into his class notes]: what are the earliest known records 
of our favorite Telugu delicacies ? Or, more specifically, was there mention of 
#chinta chiguru iguru#  or #gummaDikAya dhappaLam# in either #palnATi# 
ballads or in #kATamarAzu kathalu# ?  

Ever watched mayAbazaar lately ? I dont mean all those Lakshmana 
Kumara's boastful dialogs, nor the beautiful SasirEkha's stealing laughter at 
his gauches, nor Lord Krishna's #narmagarbhapu# (ambivalent) castigations 
of the Kauravas. I am referring to the other half of the movie that unfailingly 
arrests all kids' attention - what else but the sight great Ghatotkacha 
(henceforth referred to as G for brevity) and his (g)astronomical abilities. 
Normally a gorgeous #ghaTOtkacha# sipping away gallons of pAyasam and 
#mIgaDa perugu#  would not have caught my attention, but for my NRT 
status over the past 3 years. As ghaTOtkacha guzzles, an involuntary  wave 
of appetite surges within me to consume genuine Telugu food like  the great 
G did in MB (Anyone watched the Tamil version of #mAyAbazAr#, where G 
garu is announced to "#sAmbAr#"; in fact G garu sings "#vahvaare 
sAmbAru.#" thereupon. My relatives, after my return from years of 
#madrAsu vAsamu# used to joke that I had a low blood pressure and a high 
#sAmbAr# pressure). When was the last time I had a meal closest  to that - 
only on the occassion of my marriage - but marriage ceremonies, as we all 
know, are a plethora of meaningless incantations, boring orchestrated raillery 
between the bride & the groom and a whole lot of other nuisance activies and 
#maryAda palakarimpulu#  leaving us with little  time and leisure for 
appeasing the taste craving #AtmArAmuDu#. Which is why the sight of the 
great G garu fills me with vicarious ecstasies. If only I can incarnate myself 
the great G even for half an hour [incidentally, any one knows the exact 
duration for which G garu spent in the pantry in MB], words are inadequate to 
express my thoughts and thoughts are choked by my joy. But, given the 
chance, what will I first treat my drought stricken taste buds with ? Will it be
the #sAkaviSEshamulu, bhaksyaviSEshAlu, chitrAnnAlu, lEhyAlu# or 
#chOshyAlu# or last but not the least, the great #Andhra sAkamu# and 
#sAradAdEvI varaprasAdamu# ? With my years of personal deprivation for 
#chOshyamulu#, my first love will be #pulusulu#, #chArlu# and 
#pachchipulusulu# etc, etc. 

Mention the #Andhra nAsTAljiyam: pulusu# ; it evokes in me many memories 
of childhood: of scorching afternoons of #gunTUru enDalu#, of #sonta-illu#, 
of mother's love-loaded chiding, of the pranks we used to play on sleeping 
elders, of my father's ensueing islamic penal codes, of the rythmic slaps of 
clothes washed on stones, of scurrying squirrels squealing sharp notes, of 
crows cawing restlessly and bursting into an uproar every few minutes over 
unwashed dishes, of a solitary street hawker selling some fruit or vegetables, 
or a poor recycling merchant shouting "#pAAtaa pEEparlu konTAAm, 
pAaataa pustakAalu konTaam...#", of children running in clamour to the first 
coming #ais-prooTu banDI#, etc etc. If you were one of those guys, like me, 
who went to the local Telugu medium high school and walked back half a 
mile [2+2=4 times a day] for lunch between 12pm and 1pm, 5 days a week, 
10months a year, 5 years of school life, you must remember those whiffs of 
#pulusulu# that  would have gently strolled across your olefactory organs, like 
roars of wind as a car speeds alongside parked cars. Each house emanates 
its own unique fragrance of pulusu. It is my private theory that #pulusu#, like 
human genes, is an ever evolving thing and the key to a person's physical 
and mental characteristics is locked up in his/her pulusu. 

Before saying more about this heavenly #chOshyamu#, I must explain what it 
is not. There has been a tendency among the NRTs (be those who emigrated 
to non-Andhra parts of India or those who went to other parts of the world) to 
refer to pulusu as '#sAmbAru#', for purposes of socialization, ease of 
acceptance and easy comprehensibility. Make no mistakes about it, the arava 
#sAmbAru# is a much more elaborate preparation with far less variation to 
accommodate personal tastes & has a distinctively different, if not inferior,  
taste. The pulusu, in  comparision, is a much simpler preparation & definitely 
offers more taste for the effort. While the #arava sAmbAr# permits only a 
small variety of vegetables as #mukkalu# (such as onions, radishes, 
pumpkin, carrots etc), there is no such #mukkla# restriction in preparing our 
great pulusu. Also, the phylum of sambArs is very small - there is a rich 
phylum of pulusuluAlso, it is my strong view that the 
dark yellow potions served by the American Telugu restaurants in New 
Jersey, Bay Area, DC area and Portland (I havent had an opportunity to 
check the other regions) are neither #pulusulu# nor #sAmbArlu# (my best 
description of these would be: #kandi pappu# generously boiled with 
#chintapanDu# extract, a modicum of onions and tomatoes and seasoned 
very mildly to appeal to the non Telugu tongues in the respective regions - 
these are only cheap imitations of pulusu). 

There are many known preparations of #pulusu#: #nILLa pulusu, pappu pulusu, 
bellam pulusu, majjiga  pulusu, paccipulusu, tOTakUra pulusu, gOngUra pulusu, 
nimmapulusu# with each of these categories giving rise to an entire family of 
pulusulu. Granted the diversity of all these pulusu, it is a linguistically 
challenging task to evolve a classification scheme for the Telugu #pulusu# (& 
should legitimately be the subject of a PhD).  The same pulusu acquires a 
taste and meaning altogether  depending on the occassion it is prepared and 
in [Sometime ago there  was this mention either here or in SCIT  of the value of
a piece of art being  dependent upon the place it is exhibited in]; the same 
routine domestic 
variety of #mukkala pulusu# tastes entirely different when eaten in the local 
#bhOjana hOTal#, or a streetside village hotel, a five star hotel, a marriage 
celebration, a student mess, a relative's #Abdikam#, or a student hostel. 
Each genre has its own peculiarities and idiosyncracies that make it dear to 
the palate. Caveat: the self cooked variety is an exception to this rule; 
experiences might vary depedning on the preparor. A rural restaurant in 
#piThApuram# served me the most memorable #nILLapulusu# about a 
decade ago. 

[Continued in the next screenful...]