This piece is in response to a writing101 course’s Day 10 prompt : Tell us something about your favourite childhood meal. Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
The one food that was always a treat and comforted me and has deep roots in my memory is: Blood. I loved the spongy texture of blood almost like Jello except for that …er… bloody taste. The dark brown, almost black dish cooked with finely chopped onions and garlic and chillies adding the spicy flavour …with crunchy split chick pea seasoning with mustard adding the textural contrast. To this the smell of the curry leaves and a dash of coriander leaves …ah… Heaven!
Now , this was not an everyday meal. Although I wouldn’t have complained if it was. But you can’t go about killing everyday. Maybe the once a year ritual of this dish added to the charm. And maybe I would have gotten tired of it if we managed to make it an everyday item, like rice. You never know….
My grandfather talked about his father (my great grandfather) proudly , how he killed with one clean sweep of the long knife, severing the head from the body in one single stroke. I have always imagined that scene in my mind but never watched it live. We are a violent clan….I feel that in my blood sometimes (dear husband, Beware!)…and I carve ,occasionally ,for that coppery, irony tang on my tongue with that hint of garlic.
We are not vampires obviously….the garlic thing must have told you that much. Just plain old village folk from a remote village in southern India, who believe that our god/goddesses like mutton…like us ..after all Man made God in his own image or is the other way around? I always get confused…. So anyway, we fatten up a goat and save it for that one day – when the whole village and the immediate family living in cities all gather together – to chop or rather sacrifice at the altar the aforementioned goat (with one clean sweep if the ‘chopper’ was as good as my great grandfather )…a goat that we first decorate with a flower garland and add a make-up of vermilion and turmeric….Seriously ..we really know how to dress our food.
We called this day : ‘Jatara’ . It was like a wedding celebration combined with Diwali and Pongal because it was celebrated with the whole family and all the families in the village. We were all one community. I got to see all the cousins ..and almost everyone who I could possibly share a strand of DNA…my blood. Maybe that’s what made the ‘Goat blood poriyal’ so tasty….being surrounded by my own flesh and blood.
This is one food that takes me back to the deepest roots of my being…back to that so very unique and vibrant agrarian culture …. back to that sense of belonging to millions of others…all pulsating together as one … back to the simple times when superstition reigned supreme unquestioned by reason….where right or wrong we got together each year to taste some blood!
P.S. The government banned animal sacrifices in temples. I haven’t been to my village Jatara in more than 25 years….It’s been a while and sometimes when I watch vampire movies I wonder…..