Long Forgotten Kitchen Equipment in the time of Social Isolation

It’s the virus crises I think; it makes you run for cover in the kitchen and scour for anything that could help you engage the more helpful microbes around town, in this case (thanks again Mom), the Idli maker.

It is an implement found in most South Indian homes that prepare Idli as a culinary staple or sometimes found in the homes of those enthusiasts who love the vessel for its superior display properties. Mine is in addition a much travelled piece as well but I finally managed to  enthuse myself to use it for the first time in years (Sorry Mom).

For the love of Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, it was to be an Idli feast for dinner. I would like to elaborate further on the preparation, fermentation and associated microflora of this soft leavened rice cake of India in another post, but this time, the easy route was using the ready made Idli batters available at the Indian Store.

I finally remembered, I owned this shiny piece of steel. Such Luck ! 

The Idli Maker with Idli batter before the steaming process

What is remarkable about the otherwise humble steamed Idli is that the fermentation process increases the digestibility of the rice and Black Gram or Urad Dal (Legume – Vigna mungo) as well as the nutritional value of the constituent batter.

Fermented foods  intrigue me, I have always learned something new about this in every country I have lived. People have varied ways of improving the digestibility of their food, especially cereals and millets. Also, the ways in which cultures historically connect over such practices involving the fermentation of food is another area worth exploring.

In my Cookbook collection is The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. He has written briefly about Idli and Dosa. It’s a good book to understand fermentation processes, for the novice who has no background in Microbiology, it helps put into perspective the fermentation of grains given the vast diversity of substrate use, in the geographically disparate cultures that create magic with microbes.


But today wasn’t only about finding shiny metal hidden treasure; it was about discovering by some strange coincidence on my walking playlist, a confluence of sorts, of Tinariwen’s 2007 album Aman Iman (Water is Life) and Trombone Shorty’s 2010 Backatown.

Tinariwen are a group of nomadic desert Tuareg musicians from Northern Mali. The lead vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib’s clear voice rang out in Ahimana, like the clear blue sky and sun on my walk today,  given I assume he sings of desert blues and perhaps of the scorching Sahara. I do not know what the lyrics mean as he sings in Tamashek. The sound was  wonderful, there is a magic to this human voice.

Trombone ‘Troy Andrews’ Shorty’s ‘Hurricane Season‘ is a fine piece of jazz. The man knows his metal for sure and he plays the trumpet for this one. Listening now to his 2017 ‘Parking Lot Symphony’ while writing this blog and yes, the Laveau Dirge No.1 and the rest, got me through it; it is beautiful for while you write.


Reflections by DES


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