Longest time since I posted anything here. I broke my leg and quit my job and enjoyed the summers and began a home improvement project. Now school has started, my leg’s better, I’m trying to figure out my life goals without the safety net of the monthly salary (I needed to feel the fear) but the home improvement’s not done yet! (Will the contractor ever leave?)
Meanwhile, we holidayed somewhat. As a reflection of the upside-downness of my life right now, I have started to write about the summer in no particular order at all!
I read this article (link below) in The Hindu on November 30 last year and since then have had an itch to visit Rasipuram.
An aroma of nostalgia: on ghee from Rasipuram
Not least because both my boys are ghee aficionados. They love ghee with everything. Less in parathas or dal ka tadka or even laddoos and mysore pak. Lots when it is slathered over a hot, freshly puffed phulka. Or when I drop one big dollop on top of steaming hot rice and sambhar. Or when I put a golden brown nei roast, fresh of the griddle, glistening with, well ghee, and then they add some more on top of the small heap of brick red milagai podi even as their grandmother warns them they will get a sore throat if they eat so much podi!
Thus far, the one ghee that has had the special honour of being reserved for these special favourites has been my own home made ghee. Because I do that sort of thing and have been branded grandma for same. But what choice did I have? My kids love it so. However, I have always made a point of buying ghee wherever I see something different. The whitish ghee from buffalo milk as available up North – done it. Random cow ghee from Organic farmers’ market – check. Online order of allegedly exotic ghee – been there done that.
But read the Hindu article referenced above:
The evergreen vegetation (now getting depleted due to urbanisation) of the nearby Kolli Hills, which serve as grazing grounds for the cattle in Namakkal district, is also thought to be an important contributor to the richness of the milk that farmers use to make their butter.
Melted ghee is first seasoned with a pinch of rock salt to remove the acidity of the leftover buttermilk, and then further tempered with moringa leaves..
The minute I read this article, I wanted nothing more than to get my hands on that ghee. Rasipuram is very close to Salem but the last time I was in Salem was when I visited my aunt at age three or four and recited Mary had a little lamb on stage at the Salem club in front of what I remember to have been an enormous crowd and won a yellow purse for my efforts. Which I promptly gifted to my mother. But no digression. I know no one in Salem. It was not en route to any of the usual weekend getaways. Rasipuram remained a dream.
Till we realized that Salem was on the way from Bangalore to Kovalam/return from Thekkady for such was our holiday plan! A quick Google search revealed Dhanalakshmi traders as the place to buy ghee. I had pictured Rasipuram as the usual touristy place with one USP reflected in a row of shops selling the same thing with the same or similar brand name. Like the spice shops in Coonoor or Thekkady or the nimbu pani in Modinagar. When I reached Dhanalakshmi traders, I found myself in a narrow lane without a shop in sight. This could hardly be it! I got down from the car and bravely entered, inquiring of the first people I saw about the nei kade. They pointed me to a small room. On entering I found one man, stirring ghee on a huge kadhai. There was a churner nearby but I cannot recall if he did anything there. To the casual eye, it might have appeared dingy and dirty (which is why I have decided not to share the surreptitiously clicked pictures) but in fact ghee is melted at temperatures that are sure to be sterile and that is what guarantees their long life. Besides, the aroma of the ghee wafted up even then.
I asked how much. Being disoriented from expectations vs reality, I had completely forgotten the price I was to expect to pay (as mentioned in above article – Rs. 450 per kg). In fact the price he told me was just right but I was unsure by then of what to do. The man then offered to call the Modarali.
He took me to the house next door which belonged to the owner. I was beyond embarrassed and way out of my depth by then. I wished I had the savoir faire, the Tamil, or at least the professional boredom of a seasoned journalist to carry me through because I really wanted to get insights and write a brilliant blogpost on Rasipuram and its ghee. How it’s going out of style, why and then what to do. All I managed was a mumbled, how old is the shop (since 1960) with a stupid smile plastered on my face.
But what lovely hospitable people they were! One Thatha walked in pushing a walker and spoke so nicely, offered a coffee and when my two boys passed by on the street outside looking for me, he called them in and chatted ever so kindly.
I took back ghee for all my friends and I will contact them for more – they have promised to supply in Bangalore. Because Rasipuram ghee is not hype. It is every bit as rich and fragrant as promised, the new number one at home and in fact a drop of pure gold on our culinary landscape.