Written By K Nritya Srinidhi (Grade 10)
What clicks in your mind when it comes to your favourite food? A scrumptious appetiser, a satisfactory mouth-watering meal or a delicate desert delight. Most opinions may vary as it is a matter of regional and personal preference. Food which was nothing but a mere necessity at the beginning of life has evolved and emerged as a treat to the taste buds. In my life the dish which has highest value, priority and respect is a desert originated in ancient India, “Payasam”.
Payasam is the most celebrated dish of South India. In other parts of the country it is also known as kheer. The word Payasam is derived from Sanskrit which means ‘Rice boiled in milk’. Similarly, kheer is also a word derived from Sanskrit word ‘Kshira’ meaning milk. This delicacy has boundless history deep-rooted in the country’s soil. This is of my favourite dishes of all time, not because of its historical significance but also for its magical taste, uniqueness and connection with my culture. This dish has been a part of Indian culinary tradition since its birth.
Payasm is mentioned in ancient Indian literature as rice boiled in milk with jaggery to sweeten it, topped with bronze coloured nuts dry fruits roasted in clarified butter with a pungent cardamom flavour. Over the years it is being served as prasadam in temples of India. Payasam is a comfort food that is made mostly during festivals across the country with few modifications. Although, it is a festival food and a desert it can be devoured hot or cold all throughout the year irrespective of the season. For a dish there may be a specific place to enjoy its originality like Hyderabadi biryani in Hyderabad, but this subtle treat is the best when my mother makes it at home with a twist of love and of course at temples it is special because of the divinity of the place.
Particularly, many memories of my past have been connected to this very dish. ‘Sankranthi’ festival of harvest celebrates this dish like no other festival. This festival usually falls in the month of January. Payasam is scientifically proven to produce heat in the body due to the present of jaggery. Since January is winter season, eating this desert gives as warmth, comfort and is believed as a symbol of worshipping Sun god at the end of winter. Every Sankranthi, I visit my grandparent’s house to celebrate the festival. On the festival day it is the custom to wake up early in the morning about 4 O’clock in the Boghi fire. Later we fresh up, changing to new clothes and eat the payasam as prasadam and worship God. Moreover, this dish adds on to the health benefits of consuming it, such as prevention of hyper tension, maintenance of blood pressure levels, smooth conduction of nerve impulses and replenishment of electrolytes. Paysam is the blend of history, health and happiness.
The best favourite dish of all time is a debated topic. However, as mentioned earlier it is a matter of personal taste, cultural beliefs and regional preferences. Indeed, once favourite dish is what your heart often wants and what satisfies your stomach.
Featured Image Courtesy – Milkmaid