I remember how, whenever I visited Palakkad, to spend my holidays with my grandparents,I would rush to the thodi(the garden in the backyard) to cut a vazhela(banana leaf) for myself for lunch right on the day I arrived in spite of a tiring 22 hour train journey.
The onam and marriages were more of a happy lunch served on the leaf than the occasion itself. I would sit down, squatted legs with the vazhela in front of me, sprinkle water on it, as a mark of cleaning it, and would be served with hot rice, thick dal, ghee, sambar, banana chips, the sweet made of raw banana and jaggery(sharkaravattupperi), papadam, various other dishes like elisheri, upperi, pacchadi, kicchadi, ingipuli(my fav), rasam and curd.
There is also a particular order in which the food is served, and a preset position for each item.
The best part was to drink the payasam from the leaf, very effortlessly.
The actual way, my parents say, is to eat curd rice after the payasam, but I have preferred the payasam at the end, for the sweetness that remains for a long time.
I also love the Ashokapak served(sweetened betel nut powder) after lunch. As kids, all of us cousins, had finished most of the ashokapaks during our brothers wedding.
I remember how, I loved the Onam gathering in Hyderabad to just have the meal on the leaf.
However now, to meet the mass demand companies have started making paper vazhela and it does not even come near to gratifying the senses. We might as well have in a plate rather than paper banana leaf, for it is very disappointing, for our mind already starts relishing on the special taste of the food to be served on the real banana leaf.
After a long time, today, I relished my taste buds with an elaborate lunch on the leaf, with the taste of the food increased manifold. I could not sit down though :( .
I am waiting to go to Palakkad for a lunch on the leaf freshly cut from the tree from our own thodi.