Green plantain podimas: Of the pecking order of stationery!


Whew – neglected my blog for six days and now I’m feeling like a mom who’s left an infant to go back to work – on the first day back at work! I open the site and there is a sort of abandoned-house feel about it, musty and sad and… well, any more and I’m going to start sniffling! First things first – open up the windows, let in the air, let stories and recipes flow and the house will ring with laughter again – I hope!

At a shop with a friend today. The friend has a young daughter still at school and she stops to buy a rubber – no, don’t go all shocked and American on me (I can see the eyebrows flying up – a rubber for a school kid??!)- a “rubber” is what an eraser is called in India – that’s all! So, the obliging shopkeeper hunts around and comes up with a box of – rubbers!

Every one of them the same – an even greyish-white small rectangular shape, indistinguishable almost from those we used when kids. My mind flies back to forty-odd years ago. Buying rubbers, indeed buying any piece of stationery – was serious business! Indeed, first, it started with a teacher who rapped us across the knuckles if we spelt it “stationary” instead of “stationery”! ¬†There is a whole bunch of traumatized kids out there (all in their fifties now), who will still check the word if they type it and if they have, god forbid, mis-spelt it, will take a quick, guilty look behind to see that Emilia teacher is not around!

After you learnt that important lesson, you were qualified to buy pencils and things on your own! For a long while, in our childhood, rubbers were the real thing – deep grey, made of ‘real’ natural rubber and left grey streaks all over your homework as you rubbed away at fractions in frustration! Then, sometime in the early seventies, these were replaced with synthetic rubber and… opened up a whole new world of glory – in terms of “scent” rubbers, “fancy” rubbers in animal shapes and things, rubbers with the alphabet printed on it – at least one letter of the alphabet with an “A” for “apple” kind of thing printed on them! Rivalries were born – who had the fanciest, whose dad (lucky bug!) had gone to Bombay or Delhi or some far off place (no, we didn’t know anyone whose dad or mom had gone abroad!) and brought back the very latest thing in rubber fashions!

The fancier, the more strongly scented your rubber was, the chances of your being queen for the day in school were higher Рthere was a definite pecking order. The bottom-most (you hung your head in shame if you used these!) were the round, thin, very hard ones which rubbed out the paper along with the pencil markings as often as not! Ranking almost as low were the little rubbers which were stuck on at the bottom of the pencil Рthese were serious cheapos!

With our Gandhian parents, these rubbers swam across our ken only when an occasional aunt or uncle dropped them our way! And grief ensued when one occasionally lost the prized possession! The grief was rubbed away only when one found it again… or maybe was fed this at dinner… the verra simple, verra nutritious, verra low fat, high fibre…

GREEN PLANTAIN PODIMAS/aratikaaya/vaazhaikai podimas

  • Green plantains – preferably the fat variety – 2. Wash and cut into two pieces each. Do NOT peel
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Roast, cool and powder – 1 tbsp each of chana dal and urad dal, 2 red chilies, 4-5 peppercorns, 2 sprigs curry leaves, a pinch of asafoetida, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (curry powder)
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp

Steam the bananas for 10-12 minutes in a cooker without the weight. Cool completely, peel (it comes off very easily in your fingers), and grate.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add urad dal and jeera. Let the urad dal turn golden brown and crunchy.

Add curry leaves and saute.

Add the grated, cooked plantain, salt and curry powder and mix with a light hand. Switch off immediately.

Serve as a side with rice and sambar or rasam for a really light dinner.

Rub away your tummy troubles!