The Great Chutney Nation

If you hail from India, especially the South, one thing you could not have missed – or in more recent times, one thing you should not have missed – is something that we so fondly call, chutney. Yada, yada, chutney has become world-famous and it’s reach and popularity has – well, not crossed that of the Pizza – but at least, it had its reach, right? 😛

Oh yeah, like pizzas, chutney varieties are numerous actually. Thankfully though, no restaurant – as far as I know – provides you with a full list of chutneys and gives you the freedom of choice. One of the hardest things I find in the pizza restaurants is choosing the right pizza 😛

Chutneys, ah, they come in red, white and green mostly in all the south Indian restaurants. The red, white and green, I used to think, signify the tricolor (almost) and I used to get patriotic at the thought of the “patriotic flavor” (or fervor 😉 of the restaurants. It was not until I began understanding the workings of a restaurant – many times a bourgeoisie capitalism – that I knew it was just an attractive decoration to the plate. 😛

Yesterday, as I was musing about the chutneys and this post, I couldn’t help asking my mom how many varieties she knew of. She paused a moment before answering, and then said, “Fifteen or so.” My mom probably learnt the art of making chutneys from my paternal grandmother, and by personal experience, I know my grandma knows at least 3 times as much as my mom knows. Down here in South India, every household mom/woman would know at least 5 or more varities of chutneys. Don’t be surprised if they knew 10 or even more – it’s quite common 😛

As for me, I dislike a large section of the chutney varieties. My personal favorites are just a handful of them – and my dad’s preparation of one specific chutney is a top ranker. Be it dosa, idli, vadai, uthapam – or in rare cases, even if it sounds funny and strange, chappathi – chutney makes a good combo with all of these. (Yeah, the last one is surely awkward, but I know people who do that – chappathi+chutney) 😛

I believe chutneys sprang up somewhere in South Asia. They remain most popular and common here in South Asia, Southern India but their fame has spread far and wide across the globe. Wikipedia says chutneys began traveling continents as early as the 17th or 18th century.

Here’s a sample of what Wikipedia says about the Chutney varities in India:

My taste buds are usually tinkled by the mention of pizzas and garlic bread. This time, I guess for the first time, they are tinkled by all this talk about chutney. Hope Mom and Grandma never get to know of this because my image back home is “the chutney hater” 😛

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