Pongal is a dish made by cooking rice with lentils (moong dal) , mashing it up , flavoring it with ghee.
There are both salt and sweet versions the latter made using jaggery and the former garnished with generous amounts of cumin and black pepper.
The Tamizh word Pongu means to overflow or boil over.
Pongal is more than a food item. Every year around 13th to 16th January we celebrate a festival called Pongal. It is an important festival for Tamilians at the beginning of the Tamil month Thai( pronounced like thye). It marks the onset of the harvest season for agriculture. We express our thanks to the sun, the rains and all the forces of nature including cows and livestock for blessing us with abundance. In rural areas , pongal is cooked outdoors in earthern pots and when the rice boils and the water spills over its greeted with shouts of "Pongalo Pongal". In urban homes we do it on our gas stoves in metal pots but the spirit of expressing gratitude for the fulfilment of our basic needs remains.
It is actually spread over three days - Bhogi when we clean up our homes and discard all unwanted things; Pongal the main day when the dish is made and feasting with family happens; Mattu Pongal when we offer our gratitude to the cattle... in village sides we can see cows all decorated and beautiful!
There is a joke thats popular in Tamil circles. Whats the difference between Pongal and Diwali (another one of our festivals)? You can eat Pongal on Diwali day but you cannot eat Diwali on Pongal day.
This was a rangoli i made for Pongal( patterns drawn on floor with color powder)
Food from overseas :
Pasta and Pizza: My school going kids love pizza and pasta and it seems to be the case with most other children. In recent decades pizza chains have made their way and established their presence in almost every other country.
I do believe that authentic Italian food will have a lot more to offer than what the world calls Italian (my son hates pineapples on his pizza, says its the same with Italians).
I do harp about it being unhealthy with all the cheese and calories. But there is nothing like opening a pizza package delivered minutes ago. The aroma is mesmerising, i must admit.
During a recent visit to an Italian restaurant, the chef there mentioned that the right way to eat a pizza is with your hands. Do not use a fork or spoon.
We eat our rice with our hands and so thats a piece of pizza for us ! Ha ha
Food for thought:
There is a Tamil movie song written about Pongal festival in praise of our rivers. In it there are lines that go:
Namma sorgam enbathu mannil ullathu, vaanil illayadi;Namma inbam enbathu kannil ullathu kanavil illayadi
Sorgam - heaven
Mann - earth or land
namma - our
Ullathu- is there
vaan - sky
The heavens are here on earth and not up in the skies. Our happiness lies in our eyes and not in our dreams.