Food

Rakesh Raghunathan of Puliyogare Travels fame brings a web series on forgotten Tamil food

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Rakesh Raghunathan’s latest web series Ammavum Naanum documents heirloom recipes handed down to him by his mother

Ever tried recreating your mother’s recipe only to find that it never turns out the way she would make it? It is a sentiment that echoes across households. And it is a sentiment that echoes with Rakesh Raghunathan as well, which is why he decided to begin documenting long-forgotten and heirloom recipes. His latest venture, a web series titled Ammavum Naanum, is an attempt at capturing long-lost recipes from South India; especially recipes from his mother’s kitchen.

The 12-episode series will see Rakesh engage in food, conversation and nostalgia with his mother, Rama Raghunathan, as they recreate some heirloom recipes. “Mothers and grandmothers are usually culinary power houses. But they will never have precise measurements for recipes; it is always kai alavu or what they have seen with their eyes. Their recipes almost always have unique stories and history attached to them. I thought it was necessary to document all of this so people are aware. It is not like the recipes are not common in other families, but it is quite likely that they aren’t being made any more. So the show has that element of nostalgia for people who find that it resonates with their roots,” says Rakesh.

The show, in essence then, is an attempt at rekindling memories using food. “The episodes document recipes that my mother has learned from her mother and grandmother with a good measure of history woven in. For instance, poori payasam, one of the first recipes in the show, is traditionally made on Deepavali when the son-in-law visits for the first time after the wedding. Then there is vazhakkai kootu, which is made a few days after Deepavali, when the family is tired after hosting the son-in-law and his family and falls back on simple fare. There are some interesting stories intertwined here,” he says.

Rakesh Raghunathan of Puliyogare Travels fame brings a web series on forgotten Tamil food

Food has been an integral part of Rakesh’s upbringing. “I am fortunate to have grown up with good food cooked by my mother. Conversations around the dining table in our house always revolve around food; invariably what will be had for the next meal,” he laughs, adding, “I am sure for a lot of others, this might seem strange. But this is probably why I am so passionate about food; my mother’s influence. It comes from the fact that these recipes need to be preserved and passed on to the next generation in an aesthetic way.”

Talking about his earliest memory of food, Rakesh says, it has to be puliyodarai. “In fact, making it at home was never less than an act of drama. All the old vessels would be brought down from the attic and the aroma of spices being roasted for the powder would fill the house,” he says, adding, “When I articulate it today, I realise that a puliyodarai is also one of the most complex dishes to make.”

For Season 2 of his web series, Rakesh hopes to travel to various towns and villages in South India, exploring its street, community and tribal food, and present it in a nuanced manner to the audience. “I want to present conversations with people passionate about food. Every region has a beautiful and diverse culinary story to tell,” he says, adding, “In essence, these shows are building blocks to map the culinary history of South India.”

Ammavum Naanum is available for viewing on Rakesh Raghunathan’s YouTube channel, with episodes being released weekly.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 6:06:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/this-web-series-brings-long-forgotten-tamil-recipes-to-your-screen/article30097098.ece

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