The children in N. Nachiammai’s family eat food very different from the usual fare that today’s city-bred kids prefer.
Kambankoozh, varagu biriyani and parangi adai are just some of the dishes that make an appearance on her dinner table.
She is among a small segment of people in the city who are steadfastly holding on to traditional foods.
They made an appearance at the four-day youth health mela organised at Valluvar Kottam and promoted the use of traditional foods and millets.
“I make traditional fare at home every day and items like parangi adai, (a delicacy using pink pumpkins) are prepared once a week,” says Nachiammai, a native of Chettinad.
It helps to keep recipes alive and create new food items. She has now launched her own food outlet — Saral in Virugambakkam. Nachiammai and some of her like-minded friends meet every week to cook traditional foods.
She also encourages her children to follow in her footsteps. “They are learning at a young age to nurture a tradition as they potter around the kitchen,” Nachiammai says.
Another home-based entrepreneur K. Rajeswari and a group of women in K.K. Nagar have been successfully selling their home-made products for the past two years.
“We are a self-help group and have been in the business of creating foods using traditional grains for seven years,” says Rajeswari who hails from Virudhunagar district.
“Minor millets grow in places like Theni and Virudhunagar. We procure them from these places and use them in our preparations,” she says.
Bhavani Rajadurai, who lives in Mylapore, relies on the recipes her parents traditionally followed at home. She creates an exotic health drink using minor millets that combines all the benefits of expensive beverages but is inexpensive.
These women who have been promoting the use of millets say there is growing awareness about millets and this has resulted in higher demand.
Siddha medicine practitioner K. Veera Babu, who owns an herbal restaurant in Saligramam, swears by the importance of millets.
“People have not learnt the value of these grains. For the Corporation’s canteen and at my restaurant, we procure the grains from the districts but there are also farmers in Cuddalore and elsewhere who cultivate these grains,” he said.