No…i didnt say petrichor, but yes pothichoru comes from the land of petrichor…the word ‘pothichoru’ brings all kinds of olfactory nostalgia to most Keralites like me and unknowingly my mouth starts watering!
For the uninitiated, ‘pothichoru’ is simply a wholesome malayali meal wrapped tightly in a slightly burnt banana leaf (almost like a wrapped up sadya minus the payyasam and plus a fish fry and omlette). Technically pothi means wrapped and choru means rice!After wrapping in the banana leaf it has that familiar rectangular shape,which is then usually again wrapped in a newspaper and then its good to go/carry!
Pothichoru is not merely a tiffin or dabba,its a whole lot of love of all malayali moms! My earliest memory was during my childhood when we used to go for each vacation to Kerala to my maternal native place.We used to go there in the morning and then return by noon to my paternal native place (a few districts apart). My grandmother would make sure she had 5 pothichors wrapped and kept neatly in a bag (one kutti pothichoru for me as I was the youngest) and we used to relish the meal whilst in the train.The train journey between the 2 places was hardly 3 hrs but the ‘pothichoru eating part’ was mandatory and most looked forward to. Its not like we cant stay hungry for 3 hrs and its not like we cant eat from the house just before leaving. Its just that whole process of having it in the train whilst travelling. The aura of pothichoru which is caused by the smells of the banana leaf itself, boiled matta rice (served warm while wrapping),chammanthi (chutney),omlette,fish fry,thoran all blended together is simply irresistible. The thoran (veg sidedish usually beans thoran), sambhar(optional), raw mango or coconut chammanthi and lime pickle are all combined together with the rice. And when we mix/roll our fingers into this potpurri and combine each bite with a little piece of that perfect fish fried in coconut oil it just elevates your senses. People like me keep the omlette for the end to savour each bite of it.There is no fixed number of items or sidedishes,its purely left to the imagination of the creator.
Eating such a meal in a moving vehicle that too with your hands and no plate is a task but one that every mallu has mastered since childhood. It is very organic and sustainable too as it does not create any plastic waste as opposed to all packed food items we consume.With time,the potichor concept has gradually reduced but it continues to remain a very fond nostalgia to many. Hotels have now recently started the concept again, whilst they come nowhere close to the one our grandmoms made, its still a gud way to relive that awesome memory!
PS- Having watched ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ ,I must say that despite being a woman I have never deeply appreciated my mother or grandmother for their efforts in feeding all of us all day along. Kitchen work is and should not be just for any single gender or age, lets be collectively responsible.Time to abolish the thought ‘When men cook its art and when women cook its their duty’!
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