March 31st: Today is the first day of the new calendar year for most of the South Indian population. This festival is called “Ugadi” (sounds like oo gaa dee) in the culture and place where I am brought up. On this special day the Telugu speaking people make this special dish as a blessing for a year filled with a balanced blend of all the subtle aspects of life in the different tastes that each emotion brings out. This special dish is made of banana, tamarind pulp, raw sugar, pepper, salt and the most important ingredient which is the flower of the Neem tree. This is taken as a blessing to fill the day and the year with Sweetness of a Banana and raw sugar is for the Happiness, the hot spice of the pepper is for the anger and the aggressiveness, tamarind pulp for the sour times of disgust, the us ripened green mango for surprises in store and the bitter taste of neem flower for the times of sadness and also its medicinal value.
This is one of the many festivals that people from different parts of India celebrate in their respective regional and cultural significance and cuisines.
From my culture to yours, please accept my greetings and best wishes for a very happy new year. May every moment and every day bring you health, wealth and happiness and fill your life with a perfect blend of ingredients that can only enrich your taste buds towards life.
Loads of love
Here’s how the special dish is made:
a small piece of raw mango peeled and grated or finely chopped
a tea spoon or as per your taste of raw sugar ( Bellam in Telugu language or gud in Hindi) or brown sugar
Small piece of ripe banana cut into small pieces
A small jalapeño finely chopped or can be substituted with black pepper powder to your taste level
A tspn of ripe tamarind pulp
A quarter teaspoon of salt or adjusted according to you taste
A tbspn of neem flowers (you can substitute with something that is bitter to taste)
Mix all the ingredients with some water to make into a syrup, thickness similar to that of honey. Have a tablespoon of this dish. Hope you enjoy.
Sobha’s comments: This dish brings lot of memories from childhood. It is that time of the year that has freshness from the blooming trees and flowers and warm temperatures and that bit of excitement that the academic year is soon going to end with end of grades exams coming up in few days and then summer vacation will begin. The markets will be flowing with fresh harvest of fresh a variety of tropical fruits that will be available at this time, the variety of bananas, the guavas, green mangos, young jack fruits, pineapples, sugar cane etc, yummmm! The evenings is normally filled with the fragrance from jasmine flowers. And a perfect delight to human eyes are the presence of green parrots which are mostly visible in the sky’s around this time flying or sitting on a tree branch picking on guavas. In my native town, food is served on banana leaf. Food is considered as a blessing and so children are taught to treat it with respect and encouraged not to waste anything that is served. The innocence, the vibrant colors all around, the freshness, the values…a cultures contribution to a happy living.