India Insights: Onasadhya!

In high school, I dated a girl for a while whose family had a pretty – for lack of a better term – shabby house.  It’s not that it wasn’t a nice place to begin with or that they didn’t have the money to maintain it; rather, it was a conscious choice on the parents’ behalf to divert their budget away from house maintenance towards travel.  The way they figured it, they would rather travel more – getting away from the shabby house – than invest incrementally and not have the money to go on vacation.

This trade off makes sense to me – after all, I love to travel.  But what was funny about the Weiss’ is that when they traveled, mostly what they did was eat. When they got back from a trip, the stories were all about the meals they had, or the restaurants they found.  Whereas most folks would at least mention the Louvre or the Musee D’Orsay after a trip to Paris, these guys would come back raving about the cafes, baguettes, fresh fruits and boeuf a l’orange – no mention of the museums!  So all of that money diverted from buying new carpets and furniture, fixing the walls or re-paving the driveway?  At the end of the day, it was dedicated to food…you have to love their single minded focus!

So forgive me if I channel this family and focus today’s post on their favorite topic of discussion – food.  I haven’t been here nearly long enough to be an expert on Indian cuisine, but I do love the food here.  And on Monday this week, I had the best meal I’ve had here yet – an Onasadhya.

An Onasadhya is a feast (sadhya) in honor of the Onam festival, the largest in the south Indian state of Kerala.  As Wikipedia tells us,

Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala. It falls during the first month of the Malayalam calendar which is Chingam (August–September) and marks the homecoming of the legendary King Mahabali. The festival lasts for ten days and is linked to many elements of Kerala’s culture and tradition. Intricate flower carpets, elaborate banquet lunch, snake boat races, Puli Kali, and the kaikottikkali dance all play a part in the festival.

Don’t get your hopes up.  I’m in Andhra Pradesh, not Kerala, so it’s not like we had a day off or there were any major celebrations going on here.  But there IS a restaurant nearby that specializes in Keralite cuisine, and they had a special Onam feast on offer this week.

We booked our reservations late – day of – so the only slot we could get was at 3:00 PM.  Arriving at the restaurant, the line was still out the door, and we had to wait another 20 minutes before we were seated, mess-hall style, at makeshift tables set up around the normally sedate restaurant.

Sitting down, I was faced with a massive banana leaf, piled high with food – the picture above is pretty accurate, but I think there was more food where I ate.  I am still unfamiliar enough with the different varieties of food here that I basically just eat whatever is put in front of me, a strategy that hasn’t let me down yet.  But, after the fact, I was curious to know what is on the Onasadhya leaf…naturally, I turned to wikipedia again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadya#The_usual_items_in_a_Sadya

Highlights (from my perspective) were the parippu, sambar, and aviyal.  We had pavasam for dessert…also, amazing.

By the time we got back to the office, most of us wanted to fall asleep – a quick chai solved that problem, but it was still an amazing meal (and a tremendous amount of food!)

Unlike the ex’s family, I will not be regaling you, my faithful blog readers, with a play-by-play account of why I eat here in India.  But trust me, the food here IS wonderful, and feasts – like this Onasadhya – will get noticed here on the blog project.

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About Rob

Twitter @robertkatz
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3 Responses to India Insights: Onasadhya!

  1. Minna Katz says:

    HI,Rob,
    Reading the latest blog reminded me of our time in Holland.
    No blogs,but I began to keep a diary,so that I could keep all the kids updated on what life was like for us.Lots of letters back to all of them.
    Did mention food,too!!
    Still write every night,and sometimes still mention food!!
    Like the Dim Sum we had with your parents and Susan last Sunday as we celebrated our anniversaries.
    Loved the look of this latest-sounded like quite a special feast.
    Continue to enjoy life!!
    Love, Grandma and still asleep Grandpa

  2. Minna Katz says:

    just read the details of that feast-WOW!!
    Good thing you enjoy the food there.
    Grandma

  3. Mom says:

    And to think that this sophisticated palette started on “salmon loaf” (otherwise known as “woaf,” carrots, and Cheerios! Fun remembering the girl you speak of; love reading your tales. Loved “seeing you” via Skype this week, and talking with you via VOIP, but of course, it isn’t the same. Miss your thoughtful presence, just across a few bridges… xxxooomom

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