CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran is a self-confessed foodie who loves to relish the special dishes prepared lovingly by his mother and wife. The memories of the sweet kumbilappam, jackfruit seed stir fry, and tapioca and spicy fish curry prepared by his mother T K Chellamma still excite Kanam's taste buds.
He loves the special roasted chicken curry cooked by his wife Vanaja as much as he loves the revolutionary fervour. Back in the days, Kanam, as he is known, was so thin and he credits these two women in his life for making him put on weight.
The taste at Moscow
Though people at his native place Pala loves tapioca and pork curry very much, it wasn't a popular dish at his home. It was after his marriage that he got the chance to visit Moscow in Russia. Moscow is known for its unique pork dishes, and Kaanam too enjoyed some delicious pork delicacies there. He admits that the mouth-watering pork dishes that he had for all the meals at the Russian capital did add a few extra kilos to his body weight.
A young Rajendran used to open his lunch neatly packed in fresh banana leaf, sitting on the banks of the pond at the Vazhoor Vidyadiraja School where he studied. The politician says that the aroma of the rice mixed with spicy chutney wafting from the banana leaf would be spread over the banks of the pond. Kanam always gets nostalgic about his childhood and school days whenever he sees packed lunches.
Love for kumbilappam
Since there were lots of jackfruit trees at his ancestral home, jackfruit dishes like chakkavaratty (jack fruit preserved in jaggery) and kumbilappam (steamed rice cones with coconut - jaggery filling) were common. Kumbilapam is prepared by mixing rice powder, chakkavaratty, cumin and cardamom, and then stuffing it into Indian bay leaves folded into cone shapes. These cones are then steamed to perfection. These are excellent tea-time snacks which is tasty and nutritious. The CPI chief says that his mother used to make a special thoran (stir fry) using the skin of the jackfruit seed. However, he added that this unique local dish is not seen much these days.
Rajendran's family used to cultivate tapioca on the 2-acre land owned by them. Every day, boiled tapioca would be prepared for the labourers. He remembers cooking tapioca for them as an elaborate process. Tapioca would be boiled in huge vessels and a long ladle called the 'thuduppu' was used to stir it. Hot tapioca would then be served along with spicy red fish curry which has a hint of sourness from tamarind in it. The people of Kottayam cannot imagine a cuisine without tapioca. Rajendran too loves tapioca and these days he likes to have boiled tapioca spiced with grated coconut, green chillies, garlic, and curry leaves.
Kanam loves non-vegetarian dishes especially chicken and fish delicacies. He, however, began to control his diet as he became more health conscious. He avoids sugar or anything sweet. Desserts like paalada payasam and jack fruit pradhaman, and Vanaja's roasted chicken curry are kept away. He loves to start his day on a refreshing note with a cup of coffee with milk.
Sukhiyan (fritters stuffed with boiled green gram and jaggery), ilayada (rice patties steamed in banana leaf with coconut – jaggery filling) and special banana fry roasted with ghee and a sprinkle of sugar are Rajendran's favourite tea-time snacks. For lunch he prefers piping hot rice with a bowl of fresh homemade curd and fish curry. The leader who is not a fan of sambar, however, loves the evergreen combination of puttu and kadala (Bengal gram) curry. Chapathi, rice pathiri (pancake) or kanji (rice gruel) in limited portions would make his dinner. Kanam who admits that he doesn’t enter the kitchen to cook owing to his busy schedule, however, has no demands when it comes to food.