Peanut podi: Of thinking out of the box and the “banana in the game”!


“Three… ” easy jump…

“One… ” I’m good at this!…

Six,” says the caller and I am defeated… or wait, am I?

A pair of strong arms picks me up easily and carries me up to six! I am not out – yay! The arms belong to the girl who taught me to think outside the box – my dear friend Suvarna – one of the kindest souls I have ever known in my life!

We, a bunch of third-graders – about seven years old, are playing a game called “Steps”. Basically, this involves one kid standing below a set of steps – six in all, counting bottom to top – and calling out a number. The idea is everyone else who is playing has to jump from whichever step they’ve reached  in the previous call to the step now being called (my current generation daughter would call it ‘mobility training’ or some such high-falutin name, we just called it Steps). If you tripped or touched down on the wrong step, you were “out” and became the caller in turn – for some reason, this was NOT a desirable outcome at seven… though it seems extremely desirable forty five years later!

Back to my game. Not being blessed with a great many inches, this was a challenge to all the not-so-tall girls. Suvarna, being blessed with many more inches than the average third-grader, would happily help out – picking me up and carrying me from “one” to “six”! Obviously, whoever had thought up the game had not bargained for kids being carried and so no rule was ever written expressly prohibiting it!

Bending the rules? Naah!

Out of the box? Yes! Am sure the batsmen who faced Douglas Jardine and his terrible bodyliners felt the same – before bodyline was banned!

For all I know, today’s third-graders have banned the entire practice of “carrying”! They might even have banned the hallowed custom of what was called aatalo aratipandu (literally, the banana in the game) used to refer to anyone who was smaller/weaker/not able to keep up with the rest of the team at any sport. The banana was always given many advantages – more chances before they were declared out, couldn’t be caught (even if they were, it didn’t count!) and so on. Superbly inclusive practice, allowing younger siblings to participate without getting hurt or scuttling the older kids’ team’s chances of winning – everyone had siblings and therefore, every team had bananas!

They were treated much like peanuts… not counted… unlike this dish where the peanuts count!

PEANUT PODI (inspired by Chef Chalapathi Rao’s dish at Simply South)

  • Roasted peanuts – 2 cups
  • Asafoetida – 1/8 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Tamarind – 1 small marble sized lump
  • Dry coconut/copra – grated – 2 tbsp
  • Garlic – 10 flakes (optional)
  • Curry leaves – 1 handful
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil or peanut oil – 1 tsp

Heat oil in a saucepan. Fry asafoetida till crisp and set aside in a plate. Fry curry leaves till crisp. Add to the asafoetida.

Add the chili powder on top – the heat is enough to roast it.

Fry tamarind on a low flame. It will turn soft and then harden up a bit. Add to the rest of the ingedients.

Fry cumin and add to plate.

Fry garlic lightly if using. Remove and add to the plate.

Roast coconut till golden and add. Add salt and peanuts. Let it cool completely and grind to a very coarse powder.

Leave open for a couple of hours and bottle in a clean, dry bottle.

Serve with rice or idlis or dosas… or to flavour potato curry.

And make sure you make some tall friends when you play “Steps”!