While one nostalgically revels in the traditional Onam Sadhya served in the tender lemon green plantain leaf [now almost extinct] with all the delightful dishes placed in a row, today’s Sadhya has changed. Each curry has a specific place on the leaf and serving the Sadhya itself was an art. No more does the cooking begin at the crack of dawn with all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen.
Families do continue to meet and enjoy their festivities together. And yet, everything seems to have changed. Today’s micro families want maximum enjoyment, with minimum effort. Convenience is the key word today and outsourcing the practice.
The Malayali , who loves his food will go to great lengths to acquire it. With no domestic help for three to four of the ten days of Onam or any other important festival, the women of the household have quite naturally eased their burden by getting the Sadhya from the catering services. These caterers are popular and thrive on the large orders they receive and willingly home deliver all the items along with the rolled up plantain leaves! Home catering is a multi crore market in the state particularly during festivals.
One, two or three payasams are available to be served according to the choice of the customer. The greater the number of payasams, the higher the charge – simple arithmetic!
In days gone by, the women of the household began chopping the vegetables for the Sadhya very early in the morning. Each dish needed the vegetables to be cut in a particular way and the matriarch of the family used to oversee these proceedings. ‘Sambar’ had large pieces of the vegetables put in, long thin strips for the ‘Avial’, flat square pieces for ‘Olan’, micro fine cutting for the ‘Injipuli’,‘Inji curry’ and small pieces evenly cut for ‘thoran’; the list goes on... basically the Sadhya involves nine main curries to be served with piping hot rice. Rasam and buttermilk are also accompaniments. Pickles, chips and pappadam complement this awesome spread of food.
Payasam is the sweet dish served as dessert and eagerly looked forward to. It may be of milk or of jaggery and coconut milk. The popular ones being ‘Paalada’ , ‘Paalpayasam’ ,’Semiyapayasam’ and pradhamans like parippu, ada, broken wheat, banana or jackfruit. Most Sadhyas serve at least one milk based payasam and a jaggery based one too. It is a sheer, fulfilling treat to satiate every food lover!
Thoran-dry, vegetable accompaniment
Parippu-dal[here either green gram or Bengal gram]