Sunday, June 29, 2008

Snacks of the past

By Sandhya Ramachandran


Ever asked your father what he had after school on an average day? Snacks of the past were so different from what we have today. Here's a look at the absolutely different and simplistic kind of snacks that people had in the past…

There was neither pizza, nor any kurkure to answer those 'Hungry Kya?' questions. There was kodukka puli. Then there were those spicy mango slices; not to forget the annachi pazham thundu. Bakery products were just beginning and gave stiff competition to the oora-vechcha-maahani.

Every young boy and girl would have been given some annas of change to get themselves a slice of mango or pineapple from the fruit-seller near school to munch-on all the way home. The mangoes were unripe, cut and smeared with masala or just chilli powder for an added taste (just like the stuff you get today in the beachside). The pineapple slices were wrapped in newspaper-the then tissues! On reaching home, after a wash, they would have had a murukku or thattai- those savouries that we taste only on festivals and functions were an everyday treat for them. Sweets too were not uncommon. The paatti of the house usually took out a laddoo or athirasam as a treat. No, they never had his Frooti tetra-packs or a pack of Bingo.

In such times of simplicity, bakeries were just beginning to spring up in street corners- an anglicized development. There used to be sponge cakes, rusk, the soft bread and buns. Sooner, the cream cakes emerged. And so did Indianized versions like the masala bun came into the picture.

There were very little options when it came to drinks. It had to be fresh fruit juice, karumbu juice or the rose milk. In tall glasses, one could find push carts and stalls selling them-slaking the thirst of the passers-by. The advent of the goli-soda/ paneer-soda turned it into as an instant thirst-quencher. In its murky green bottle and with a goli/marble wobbling in its neck, this soda was supposed to give instant energy, especially to tired long-distance travelers.

I remember, as a kid, I used to be very fond of a local brand of ice-cream made in my native village. These ice-cream vendors used to arrive promptly at one's streets, as they made their rounds on their carts, in the village, yelling out "ice-creaaaammmmm"! My parents however, had just the ice golas- crushed ice pressed on to a stick and squirted with syrup. These Indian popsicles are still available in the market and relished.

My mother reminisces about the Kodukka Puli and the Oora-vechcha-Mahaani. The Kodukka Puli was a fruit of a tree. It resembled a tamarind and hung in bunches and swirls from the Kodi(branch) and hence the name. Some ladies in her village used to cut the maahani variety of mango into inch sized bits and with allow it to soak in water with a dash of salt and chilli powder. This Oora-vechcha-Mahaani used to be one of the hot-favourites amongst kids of her area, she recounts.

Many of the varieties of food available in the past have changed and many still continue to thrive. The change in eating habits and preferences has changed the market availability of these commodities. Be it Kodukka Puli or Kurkure- as long as it takes the tongue on one hell of a roller coaster ride in flavours, we don't see anybody complain.

This is to declare that the author and the organization do not support or work for the brands that are mentioned in this post.


GLOSSARY:

Kurkure- a crispy snack with a sprinkle of salt, masala powder and chilli powder. Also a brand name
Bingo- a brand of chips
Frooti- a brand of mango drink

Hungry Kya?- Are you hungry?

kodukka puli- A type of vegetable that resembled a tamarind and had a bland taste.
annachi pazham- Pineapple fruit
thundu- slice/piece
oora-vechcha-maahani- Mahani is a variety of mangoes. In its raw form it is soaked in a salt-chilli powder mix.
Annas- currency unit formerly used in India, equal to 1/16 rupee
murukku – a savoury made with flour that is coil shaped.
Thattai- a flat savoury made with flour.
Paatti- grandmother
laddoo – a sweet, bright yellow in colour, that is rolled into ball-shapes.
athirasam- a flat type of sweets
karumbu- sugarcane
goli-soda/ paneer-soda- a soda available in green bottles with a marble wobbling in the neck.
ice golas- popsicles

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