We Mallus from God’s Own Country (You others, wherever it is that you live, please don’t be offended, your countries are also God’s own if that’s how you wish it to be. I use it because this is the nickname by which my state is known)… so yeah, we Mallus, from God’s Own Country, are sold big on a vegetable dry dish called thoran.
Thoran is the easiest thing to make and can be made using any one of the following veggies: all types of beans, carrot, snake gourd, cabbage, green/red leaves, drumstick leaves, banana stem and flower, raw banana, yam, drumsticks and more. And fish and chicken too, by the way! The internet is teeming with recipes for thoran, still let me quickly take you through the steps.
Finely cut the vegetable of your choice. Heat oil in a kadai and throw in some mustard seeds and pieces of dried red chilly. Watch them jump around going, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” When they are done spluttering in annoyance at your callousness in putting them in hot oil, dump the cut vegetables and salt with them, stir well. Let them all get to know each other really well. Meanwhile take some fresh grated coconut, a pod of garlic and a pinch of cumin seed, take them all to task, mildly. Introduce Messrs Turmeric and Red Chill Powders to them, the former a pinch and the latter to taste. Add them to the by now mellow veggies and tell them to party while the heat is still on. When they are done, give them a sprig of curry leaf as prize.
That’s it. Thoran is ready. Easy-peasy, right?
Thoran used to be a regular feature in my home too, beans thoran, cabbage thoran, green banana thoran… you name it. But when it came to snake gourd or okra, mother gave them a different treatment. None of the garlic, cumin, Messrs Powdered Turmeric and Red Chilly routine which is what makes a thoran a thoran. When she cooked these vegetables she only added plain handfuls of freshly grated coconut to them. For years and years and years and years… well you get the drift, for a pretty long long time, I thought that was how okra and snake gourd HAD to be made.
The very first time I came across the snake gourd thoran, which was somewhere in my late 20s, my reaction had been one of incredulity. ‘But you don’t make snake gourd with cumin and garlic added!‘ The person to whom I said this gave me a curious glance but didn’t reply. Next I came face to face with the okra thoran. This was even more of a surprise than the first. “Okra thoran?!!!!!! No bleddy way!” I told a neighbor about the okra thoran someone else said she had made that day, and asked her, wasn’t it funny? Okra thoran, indeed! Hahaha! But the neighbor told me it wasn’t funny, she made okra thoran too. Besides, she had never heard of plain grated coconut being added to okra and she found THAT funny.
This was just not right. They were ALL making a mistake. This was not how mother made it. I mean, hers was THE way to make it, right? Why were these others making it differently? But ummm, their way of making it tasted ummm… better than what mother used to make. Could it possibly be made that way too? Hmmm… Soon, I started making it the new way (which was in reality old, but new to me) and really liking it. And then one day it hit me. Of course, mother had been taking a shortcut (she is not too fond of cooking), and I like a fool had assumed it to be THE correct and only way.
The same way we assume everything our parents ever taught us, or have heard from them growing up, to be the only truth.
The ideas, opinions and thoughts on a number of things including religion, politics, gender, system of medicine etc from parents are swallowed whole and never really questioned. Every prejudice of theirs finds fertile ground in us, takes root and grows to a powerful and strong tree, difficult to uproot. And the way we are exhorted from birth to put parents on a pedestal (as also the guilt-tripping done by parents at the least sign of individual thinking) does not help us in any way to break away and evaluate impartially, what has been fed us.
To those who think, these things are pretty clear. While growing up we imbibed from parents what they understood of the world as they knew it. But we now live in different times and need new skills, new ways to see us through life. Parents taught us what they THOUGHT was right. It need not always be the right way or the best solution/answer for us. In fact it is NOT. Sometimes it is absolute nonsense. The past is for learning from, not for following implicitly without questioning. Yup, consider that a shailism. We HAVE to question, deviate, reevaluate the old, discard the useless, cut new paths and travel them.
Think of it this way, if we were meant to lead exactly the same life our parents lived and they their parents and so on backwards… shouldn’t we still be sitting on treetops? Or maybe we wouldn’t even have gotten there, only been single celled organisms still, faithfully reproducing according to instructions.
©Shail Mohan 2016
There is some truth in the adage that food cooked with love tastes better than food cooked simply to feed a family. Sadly, my mother did not enjoy cooking either so I did not learn much from her – or perhaps I did, for I have been determined to give my family a different experience. Now my children regard certain dishes as ‘Mom’s dishes’ because they claim that neither they nor their spouses can emulate them. Tommy rot I know – still it is an honour in a way.
//or perhaps I did, for I have been determined to give my family a different experience.// That has been my thought too 🙂
‘Mom’s dishes’ sounds really nice. 🙂 An honor to cherish! 🙂
Love this “shailism”…..
When I realized that even daddy could make mistakes , the world looked to me as if it were upside down…..
…..then I started to be realistic and to consider every idea or opinion , other than my parents’
I feel that’s how we grow. But many refuse to even consider anything other than what they are used to.
Thank you 🙂
You really need to tell my mom this….like seriously. Maybe a pep talk from someone living in Kerala so long will get her to realize that the world she grew up in no longer exists. Perhaps she will stop hounding me in following the same path and let me be my own person. Maybe you should even post a lecture so that most Asian parents living abroad India will get the hint that the India they once knew no longer exists as they are going through the “time-capsule” effect and are stuck in a time warp.
My mom has in the past been adamant about me not following our dear “culture and tradition” the right way and refuses to acknowledge that Kerala itself has changed since she left to her new home in the US 30 years ago. She has once enforced to me that I have to live like the old generations and try to make it seem that all kids in Kerala are these kinds of kids who never do wrong, get everything perfect and always ‘obey’ the elders. She even said my brother and I should have grown up in Kerala because we learn to follow the expectations and demands of our “society” and do for their pleasing, rather than following and discovering our own paths. And of course when someone accomplishes something we get flamed for not being liek them. Obviously her notions are far from the truth, especially when she thinks our people are better and superior compared to everyone else/other cultures.
I agree with you that parents are NOT always right. However it is still believed that just because you are “older” than someone that you know more than them and have more knowledge because you lived longer than them. Seems to me they think they are entitled then to treat those younger than them any way want and completely disrespect them (seen in my family). Hard to change that notion and I hope the younger folks know better. But well said ! :). I’m glad at least some older generation people understand this.
Mind you post a lecture on this so I can show my parents this? Lol, j/k 🙂 But this is well written and it really deeply resonates with me.
First, your mother is in the US too? 😮 I somehow assumed she was back in Kerala and hence didn’t approve of modern ways of life. Hmm… this means she is trying to hold on to a life as she knew back here!
Second, yes, parents are definitely not always right. And having lived longer does not confer either wisdom or knowledge on the person. Sigh, but then everyone will have us believe otherwise. Nothing annoys me more.
Most of my family is in the US, but some of them still live like they are in 1950 (but few get it, thank god). But most malayalee communities abroad appear more traditional (and really insular) than people in India :/. Annoys me too.
I love the way you wrote out the recipe. The fun of cooking is you can experiment combining all kinds of flavors, something not every is open to.
Thank you 🙂 That’s true about experimenting in cooking. It is rather fun.
Thoran-making described in a bemus-ical way
(Thorans are also beaded strips hung above a doorway)
Parents perpetually right
Are always a blight
Especially if they just do not sway!
Nice one, Gul 😀 The two thorans differ in the way they are pronounced 🙂
Next time when I make thoran I shall think of your recipe and that would make me smile.
Point to ponder.
Haha, Bindu, hope you smile a lot 🙂
Ha ha.. Making one thoran, brought about all this?! Wow…
bites lips and enters kitchen
So what came out of your thoran-making, Ivin? 😉
ahh thats me, dont really care for cooking. 🙂 luckily my kids realise this . My 16 yr old went to india for 2 weeks, and came back and said he missed me but not my cooking, apparently i cook bland food, throw spices in haphazardly and he’s 100% right. I do on occasion follow a recipe and it comes out spectacularly , so now my kids when asked say, I’m a bad cook unless the mood strikes and then temporarily i turn into jamie oliver 🙂
oh well such is life , cant beat my speed at cooking though, in andout in a blink. plus in these days of youtube cooking, anyone with a desire can cook any dish… so the rule is
If you want tasty food a specific way, cook it,
if you want to go out dressed , do laundry ..
I love your rules 😀
As always, you say it like it is and say it so well, Shail!! ❤
Thank you, Roshni 🙂
Found In Folsom said:
LOL…my mom makes excellent sweets and all festival foods well, pickles etc..but daily meals..she just does it for the heck of it…we also do many curries similar to it, but never ground garlic, coconut and jeera together…let me it try it that way next time 🙂 I like the way you say it..Shailishtyle..:P
Hope you like it. Lol @Shailishtyle 😀 😀
Shailism rocks, as always! 🙂
Even my Mom is not a passionate cook but I guess the love she puts in makes them all tasty 🙂
And yes, very often we tell her how its done to make a dish tastier and she is quick to adapt too 😛
Thank you, M 😉 Ah, nice that your Mom likes to add to her cooking style 🙂
Sylvia Nair said:
Aww, had no idea you were a fellow gods-own-countrian! So happy!
Merry meet, fellow Mallu!
You are a lovely, courageous and gritty soul. Thanks a lot for the follow!
Merry meet, fellow Mallu, you too! 😀
Thank you for your kind words.
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