Tag Archives: fever

The ‘Rasam’ Debate

‘Rasam’ is a South Indian dish. It is a watery soup that is eaten with rice. Rasam is a combination of many tastes – it is spicy, tangy, aromatic, and full of flavour. More than anything, Rasam soothes, comforts and invigorates. It can be eaten when you have stomach upsets, when you are down with a cold or fever or pretty much all the time.  It is also the dish you want to come home to after a long holiday,  and restaurant food.

Rasam is usually served as the second gravy (that’s mixed with rice) in a typical South Indian meal. The Rasam, as a dish, is so versatile that it can be made with different bases like tamarind, lemon, orange, pineapple, lemon grass and many more.  It can contain one or many of the following – tomatoes, garlic, ginger, drumstick etc.

It is a staple dish in most homes. A good South Indian cook is expected to make a mean cup of Rasam. 

Image courtesy – http://www.Dreamstime.com

Where I grew up, Rasam was a must-have with our afternoon meal. Piping hot rasam, with rice and papadams, eaten with spicy potato curry.

My mom is a Rasam connoisseur and I have inherited my intense love for Rasam from her. My mom’s Rasam is to die for, and I have many wonderful memories of tucking into wonderful meals with her aromatic rasam, with the monsoon winds sweeping outside.

Cut to many years later. I was a newly married woman, trying to impress my husband with my cooking skills. One of the first meals that I prepared was a Rasam-Rice combo with some vegetable.

When we sat down to dinner, my husband looked at the Rasam and said, “I don’t like Rasam at all.”

I was shocked. How could someone not like Rasam? I did a hardsell of my Rasam but to no avail. My husband’s family only had Rasam when they were down with fever.

So, for them, Rasam = Fever Comfort Food

For me, Rasam = The greatest dish ever…

How were we going to reconcile this? It was an even bigger debate than Coffee vs. Tea (Coffee for me, of course).

It’s been a long journey. The only consolation is that when my husband is down with a bad cold or fever, he asks for ‘my delicious rasam’. I keep telling him that my rasam is delicious even otherwise…but!

When I think about it, this Rasam debate in our home epitomises marriage. Two different people, with different tastes, who learn to live together and compromise on many things, but don’t on a few things…and can laugh over all this over a cup of rasam.

Grandma’s home remedy

I am down with a cold, blocked nose, watery eyes and a gnawing headache.  I have to live with this one, I guess, medication or no medication. The power of my sneezes can definitely get some mechanical device going. They are so powerful that they shake me, and the chair I am sitting on.  I make myself some hot ‘rasam‘, an Indian soup that soothes the throat.

As I steam-inhale for the n-th time, my memories rush back to my childhood.  We grew up in a joint family, and when anyone was down with a cold or fever, my Grandma usually had a home remedy handy. The age-old wisdom was that the body had to fight off germs by itself, and you only went to a doctor if you did not recover in a week’s time.

The home remedy for the common cold was a drink called ‘kashaayam‘.  Colds being what they are, leave a family only after doing the rounds of all its members.  So when the season of sneezing and sniffing started in the family, my Grandma would start her preparations for ‘kashaayam‘.

Pepper, sugar candy, honey, ginger, cumin seeds and ‘tulsi’ leaves (holy basil leaves) are ground and boiled in hot water to prepare this decoction.  

The smells that wafted through the house when the ‘kashaayam‘ was being made were tantalizing enough.  But the dulling of the senses during a cold caused that illusion, I guess.

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Courtesy – http://www.anudinam.org

I remember the first time I had this brew.  I was actually looking forward to it as all the adults seemed to drink it, when they had colds.  I was given a small glass of the dark brown liquid and asked to sip it slowly and not to take in more than one sip at a time.

I took my first sip.  The assault on my senses was overpowering, the drink stung my throat and set my eyes, ears, nose and throat on fire.  I sputtered and coughed, but my Grandma insisted that I finish it, promising me all kinds of treats.  I took another tentative sip, this was not so bad as my whole body was, anyway, already on fire.  With watering eyes and stinging throat, I completed the ‘kashaayam‘.

After about an hour or so, I could feel my blocked nose clearing, and throat feeling better.  My Grandma came to inspect.

“You’re looking better”, she said. “Maybe another round of ‘kashaayam‘ should do the trick.  I remember how frantically I looked for places to hide. Anything to avoid that horrible concoction again.

Now however, I would give anything if someone sat me down and pampered me with this dark brew.