Vijayawada

A ‘hut’ where a concept was born

The traditional Andhra food served at Perraiah Mess in Vijayawada since 1955 is still a rage. - Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

The traditional Andhra food served at Perraiah Mess in Vijayawada since 1955 is still a rage. - Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar  

Peraiah’s Mess has been satiating the palates of denizens by serving vegetarian Andhra meals for over six decades.

Venigalla Peraiah moved from Gudlavelleru in the ‘50s primarily to provide higher education to his children. Mess culture was yet to gain ground in Vijayawada those days. Staying in a rented house at Machavaram he wanted to make a living by setting up a students’ mess in front of SRR & CVR Government College to meet the recurring expenses. But over a period of time it went much beyond and has become a part of the city’s ethos.

Perraiah Mess, considered the one of the oldest messes in the city, has successfully completed six decades and is continuing its culinary journey to satiate the palate of the denizens by serving its trademark vegetarian Andhra meals.

The mess, then under a thatched roof, served the lip-smacking Andhra food prepared by the family members of Mr. Peraiah catering to students, lorry drivers, workers, bachelors and medical representatives. In fact, the affable villager brought the pure culinary skills of rural Andhra which is being accepted by the locals with open arms.

“The mess is popular as the food (even now) is served on a plantain leaf. It is known for ‘muddapappu’, ‘avakai’ (mango pickle) and gadda perugu (curd). ‘Muddapappu’ is cooked redgram (kandipappu), mashed, salted and served with a dash of turmeric powder as the first course and eaten with hot steamed rice, a dollop of ghee and the famous ‘avakai’,” says P. M. Gangadhara Rao, owner of the Machavaram unit.

Says late Peraiah’s daughter Krishna Kumari from Eluru: “I remember my father was able to make a paltry profit of Rs. 100 after meeting all the expenses in the first month. Students loved the food as the taste resembled home food and my mother and other relatives took care of the kitchen.”

She says the affable and straight forward behaviour of her father brought youngsters of the generation close to the mess. “He talked good things with the students such as discipline, honesty and good habits. The food under the hut was served with loads of love and affection. Gradually the hut went on become the talk of the town,” she adds.

‘Muddappadu’

Right from day one, the kitchen was taken care of by the female members of the family and extra care was shown while preparing ‘muddappadu’, the star dish of the mess. “People came here to relish several pickles such as lemon (nimmakaya), ginger (allam), chinthakai (tamarind) tomato, ‘magai’, ‘pandu mirchi’ as well,” says Mr. Rao.

‘Butta bhojanam’

Mr. Rao also fondly remembered the ‘butta bhojanam’ (selling food in palmyra baskets) which was popular among the travelling public. “Most of the lorry drivers used to buy ‘butta bhojanam’ to take care of their hunger on road those days.”

However the mess faced a jolt in the late 90s when the road-widening reduced its size. “We removed the hut and constructed the building in the year 2000. Though the structure was changed the traditional way of preparing and serving have not changed,” says Mr Rao.

All the suppliers of the mess are associated for more than three generations and care is taken in the fermentation of milk, “We have been bringing milk from Bodapadu village in Vuyyuru mandal for more than 50 years. We ensure that curd leaves an everlasting taste after a good meal. Meals are cooked using the freshest possible ingredients which take care, to a large extent, of the hygiene factor.”

Perraiah’s grandson is running a mess opposite I.V. Palace in Governorpet, which caters to the neighbourhood. “Those days the food used to be served for a couple of rupees. Now we serve at Rs. 70,” says Pothumathi Rajeswari.

The city is now dotted with several student messes but Peraiah’s hut will long be remembered for pioneering the concept.

TRUE FACTS:

On Sundays the mess used to serve a sweet as special.

A course of meal used to cost just one rupee in the 50s.

Peraiah opened a unit near Andhra Loyola College but closed it owing to lack of patronage.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 1:28:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/A-%E2%80%98hut%E2%80%99-where-a-concept-was-born/article13994049.ece

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