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Thursday, March 11, 2010

TamBrams and Americans - Fundamentally the same?

I have always wondered if one could identify a society or culture by a defining trait, thing or habit. It need not be just one thing but A something that so strongly ties into the roots of its people. Roots? hmm... something that brings me to the title of this blog. Living in the US I have always come to believe, if there is one thing that appeals to one's AMERICAN-ness if you could call it that, was their affection quotient for the All American drink - ROOT BEER! You either love it or absolutely detest it. Every US "alien's" nightmare is to be offered root beer with no other drink option. What alien?; as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart remarked, you are a foreigner in any country in the world if you are not from there but only in America are you not even from their planet! Moving 8000 miles east to India, we meet a small sect of Tamil speaking Dravidians called the TamBrams, short for Tamil Brahmins. As many an Indian knows, You can take a TramBram out of India but you can never take the Thayir Saadam (Yoghurt Rice) out of him. In the eyes of a TamBram, no dessert stands a chance to the smoothness of Thayir Saadam. The perfect end to any meal, be it Dim Sum, Pizza, Pasta or Pulao. This perfect ending is complete with the best accompaniment: Pickle. If there is one defining pickle that goes well with this dish and brings fond memories to many a TamBram around the world, its Mahani Kizhangu (MK). There are no two ways about one's affection towards MK. One either loves it or hates it.

So what elicits this stark "black and white" response from people. Turns out the root cause of these two geographically distant food choices is in fact the same root! Say hello to the root of the Sarsaparilla plant. So one begs to ask the question if our root beer loving "hard-core" as-american-as-can-be Americans would love Mahani Kizhangu pickle in their Bloody Mary and would the thought of thayir sadam with mahani help the TamBram gulp down root beer?

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