Love to Hate while growing
Comfort food after thirties
That is the humble Upma for you.
I have never met a child who likes the humble upma. That feeling is universal. Once you cross thirties, Upma becomes the much cherished, trip down the memory lane dish. I do not know of any other dish that creates this kind of love hate relationship.
If there is a crowd, it is Upma for break fast. If your mother runs out of ideas for a quick snack, it is Upma. For the lonely bachelor, Upma is a savior. To quick fix any time hunger pangs, Upma comes to the rescue.
There are many many variations for this humble dish. With vegetables and without, with wheat rava and corn, with oats and corn flakes, etc etc. However, it is the simple dish prepared with onions, chillies, seasoned with curry leaves using Bombay rava that is/was the most popular. Though the preparation is very simple, turning out the upma that is cooked right, which almost melts in the mouth and with every grain of rava clearly plumped up but not into ahumongous mass is an art. The skill with which the ladies of the house churn out huge quantities of Upma, perfectly cooked without any lumps is what legends are made of.
The best upma is served in weddings. On a hot banana leaf, one big ladle full of hot upma, with a wedge of lemon pickle on the side tasted divine. Is it the crowd, or the company, or the excitement of the wedding, or having fun with the cousins, or everything put together, Upma served in weddings attains cult status. Licking the fingers engrossed in talks, balancing the plates, just the memory makes me crave it. We forgot that the same grub was hated at home with a vengeance. May be it was the realization that if we missed the breakfast, we would have to stay hungry for a very long time, that made us cherish it.
There are some who swear by the Upma and Sugar combination. For them (including myself, occasionally), the spicy upma rolled and dipped into sugar, is one step away from heaven. The spicy hot contrasting with the sweet of the melting sugar crystals, needs to be savored and cannot be explained. It is my humble opinion, that everyone loves this combination, but do not want to publicly announce for the fear of being ridiculed.
The other combination which is quite popular in summer is the Upma with Avakaya pachadi. This combination is definitely for the spice lovers. The white upma with the specks of green chillies and curry leaves, offers the perfect contrast to the fiery red mango pickle. A visual and a tongue burning delight that raises the mercury to another level. I can confidently say that it is only the Telulgu’s that can withstand this fiery combination.
Go cook your upma, just the way your mother made it, with or without lumps :-). Enjoy it with sugar, with pickle or eat as is and relive the moments with every bite. Also, force your children to eat it even if they hate, just so that they will have “an Upma moment” when they grow up.