"In every corner of the world there is a Malayali"
A phrase that has been proven right time and again. But no matter where we are, we all carry a piece of home wherever we go. Knowingly or unknowingly, these tiny pieces make our homes-away-from-home look, smell and feel like our homes back home.
No matter where we go and set up our home, there are always a few things that we have in our houses that gives out the Malayali vibe. I have noticed that you can’t tell it from the front door unless it is Onam or there is a Coir mat/rug that says “WELCOME”.
No mango leaves or kumkum or haldi prints hanging outside, but once you enter inside, you most definitely can!! It is different isn’t it?
We scanned the nook and corner of our homes and compiled a list of things that we malayalees have at our homes, no matter which part of the globe we are. Those little things that bring in the ‘Malayaliththam’ to our homes.
You may not carry them the first time you travel, but sooner or later you will somehow get hold of one. We owe our flavors not just to coconut, but also to the these earthern pots and pans we use. The manchattis and the fish curry cooked in it.. It is like the earthen flavor oozes into the curry and the taste of it the next day…oohhh!!! That ‘kudumpuli itta meencurry’ is just not complete without the manchatti.
The breakfast-ware: we take our breakfast seriously!!
Ask a tourist what do you love about Kerala; The obvious responses would be the greenery, backwaters and ‘appam-puttu-kadala’.. Yes, we take our breakfast seriously and that is why we have all these dedicated breakfast cookwares; puttu kutti, appa chatti, the idiyappam-maker.. Our utensils are as unique as our breakfast dishes. After all, Puttukutti is what makes it Puttu, otherwise it is just steamed rice flour. 😉
stating the obvious; Coconut, in any form.
Our grocery shopping is not complete without coconut (in any form). You might own a ‘chirava’, if your kitchen is big enough to accommodate one ( Those handy coconut scrapers are not nostalgic enough.)
If not, frozen portions of scraped coconut are such a blessing. Although not as perfect as the coconut milk, we sometimes resort to the Thai substitute for our stews.
Coconut oil- Thanks to the new trending market for coconut oil, we don’t have to rely solely on Parachute from the Indian stores. Who else reads the whole story about coconut trees on the Kirkland oil jar, and beams with pride??
The Go-to Medicines
Every household will have their own collection of go-to medicines and supplements. – the various arishtams, choornams, lehyams, kuzhambu and a variety of oils for hair and body. Are you malayali enough if you travel abroad without a custom made hair-oil? 😀 (NOM)
Tiger balm/Amritanjan/Vicks/Iodex: Tiger balm used to be a staple in the suitcases that came back from the Gulf.. a must have in the treat bags distributed among the dear and near. Is that how we started obsessing about pain balms?
The 'Thorthu'- simple but Powerful
A noun as well as a verb. 😀
Are you a fan of the white ones with color borders or the colored ones that are low maintenance (no Ujala needed 😀 )?
The fluffiest Turkish towel you have cannot beat the satisfaction of this little piece of cotton. That ease of drying yourself with a piece of thorthu is incomparable. Easy to wash, easy to squeeze, easy to dry!! Multiple uses like for fishing and squeezing coconut milk. You don’t need help with scratching your back if you get the knack of using a Thorthu as a scratch stick.
Kasavu Saree/Mundu and A traditional gold ornament(ofcourse, to go with the saree)
No matter how many party wear you pack in that suitcase, there is always a spot reserved for the simple and humble Kerala saree and Mundu. They will surely see the light of the day at least twice a year on Onam and Vishu.
Curry leaves or even the whole plant itself
The oil in the pan is heating up, mustards spluttering and the less fortunate among us opens the fridge and adds the frozen leaves. Have seen friends growing their own curry leaves plant, but I haven’t yet. Are you the lucky one who gets to pluck the leaves out of the plant and add it straight into the pan or the less fortunate ones like us who make do with a sprig or two from the Indian store?
That said, how can we not remember this kadu vara kadu vara kadu vara 😀
The Malayali masalas
For me atleast, the masalas has to be familiar brands. The ones I have seen my mom and MIL using, the ones that have ads that sends a malayali vibe. No offence to any other brands, but some how nothing else feels homely enough. So, we travel with 1-2 months reserve of masala packets or sometimes luckily finds them at the Indian stores.
Chakka varuthathu, Kaaya varuthathu, Sharkkara Upperi.
This is a no-brainer. Dont think too much if you are meeting someone for the first time and they offer you any of these.. All you need to ask is “Naatil evideya”?
Who said souvenirs are just for tourists? We proudly display them and anytime a non-malayali asks about it, we go ga-ga all the way, starting right from Literacy, Harmony, Communism..Movies, and then boast about how we have original movies and everybody else just remakes them (..and then rant about how it killed the original) … and go on!!
There are many more to add on to this lists,
How many of these do you have at home. What are the other things that bring ‘malayaliththam’ to your space? Do let us know in the comments.