Turn back your pages in the dairies and go to your childhood, and you'd remember that one of the most important events at the onset of summer holidays is the preparation of Avakaya, the most solicited, famous & revered pickle of Andhra Pradesh. I was actually surprised that when I typed Avakaya there was no article cherishing the experiences of Avakaya. Then I thought of penning my memories associated with it.
ఎవడు కనిపెట్టాడో కానీ ఆవకాయని, అది లేని జీవితం ఎందుకూ పనికిరాదు !!
At the onset of summer Holidays, when Mango is raw, the pickle preparartion season begins. More details about the preparation of the pickle itself can be found on the wiki page, but I want to write about the sweet nuances surrounding its preparation.
On the day, when the mango pickle is decided to be kept, we used to go out to the fruit market and start looking out for Mangoes which are as sour as possible from as many dealers. Since my mother cannot really taste very sour mangoes, she would take me along with her and I'd get the great opportunity of tasting the sour mangoes. (I am actually drooling water while thinking about it :) ).
Once a particular set of mangoes are liked, then the bargaining part starts and finalized ( Some of the best practices of sourcing & procurement in consulting can be learnt from the bargaining at these places!!). Now, the mangoes are bought, which is the easiest part of the whole process!! Remember that these mangoes are only for "avakaya". There would be separate set, albeit amongst the same lot, for "maagaya" another pickle with mangoes itself, but in the latter the mangoes are shred into slices instead of pieces as done in "avakaya"
During my childhood the mangoes would be brought home, washed and rinced with a dry cloth and then a hard knife or a "kathi peeta" would be rented from neighbors to cut the mangoes. This is a very intense excercise and requires lot of effort and concentration.
I remember sitting besides some one, who would be chopping the mangoes and we, children trying to steal the small pieces :), or trying to impress the person by doing some small chores and in return managing to get few chunks of sliced mangoes!!
Once all the mangoes are chopped into pieces of required dimension, that is when the actual process of preparation of avakaya began!
On the other side, the preparation of maagaya is even more interesting. (Water drooling!!). First of all, the mangoes' skin has to be peeled. This is a time consuming excercise, but not harmful, so even we were asked to do it as children. Once all the mangoes's skins are peeled off, then slices of the mango would be made.
While for avakaya, the mangoes are chopped including the inner shell, for maagaya only the external part of mango is sliced and the inner shell is thrown away.
Once the slices are made, they are dipped in pasupu and uppu (Turmeric and salt), which makes them really yummy. Two slices of it and you'd feel so good. For weak stomachs, third slice is good enough to make their stomach rumble :)
Here onwards the preparation begins!!
Since avakaya and maagaya are dishes made, they have to be prepared in a very ritualistic fashion and hence the person who is preparing it, would be in madi (A ritual where a person maintains physical distance from any other person, as he/she is performing a divine duty or a duty related to lord!)
The pickles are also significant in nature and the first bite always goes to the god and hence they are performed in isolation by a few, but we get to only see the preparation. If we still crave for physical proximity to mother, who is preparing the pickle, we would go naked and sit with her while she is preparing it :)
Typically, both the pickles would be made under the stringent guidance of yester generation, as it is an art extended from generations to generations only through action and not in written.
The right pickle, requires right amount of salt, oil and the perfect combination of the masala!
Hence, my mother would usually be guided by her mother-in-law who would also be in madi and would tell her the amount of salt and all other ingredients.
Remember that all this while, none of the ingredients are ever tasted. The first bite of the pickle would be given to god or kept aside for some priveleged people. So, the total pickle preparation of 2-3 days is done, only by the expert perception of the women!
Once the pickle is prepared in dishes, it is stored in big porcelian bottles (jaadi), which are typically colored in white and brown. (I do not know the reason for these colors!). The procelian dishes are also, well cleaned, dried and preserved for the storage of these pickles only. Some of the these Jaadis have been used for generations.
The pickle is never kept to the brim of the Jaadi. It is only kept till half or 3/4th of the Jaadi, and the rest is filled by Oil. The mangoe would absord the oil and gradually release its taste. It would typically take a week to two for the total mangoe pieces to absorb the oil and become perfect. The nectar released by mangoes is called "oota". One can easily distinguish the mangoe pieces which have not yet absorbed the oil and masala completely and the ones which have.
On the first two days, when the new pickle is made, it is shared between neighbors and relatives and every one loves to receive it. The whole week, when these pickles are made, the only thing that one can relish is these pickles for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!
My brother would go gaga over these pickles and would insist on not having food without having a bite of the pickle.
వేడి వేడి పప్పులో నెయ్యి వేసుకుని ఆవకాయ నంచుకుని తింటే ఉండే ఆనందం వర్ణనాతీతం!!
ఆ రోజులే వేరు !!
May all of you be blessed with aavakaya, gongura and other pickles and may your health permit you to be able to eat them!
To end this article ...
కొడితే కుంభ స్థలాన్నే కొట్టాలి!
తింటే కొత్త ఆవకాయనే తినాలి !!