Latha (my wife) attempted ‘Biscuit Rotti’ after a long long time. She made a few which very much looked like, and tasted almost like, BRs that Amma (my mother) used to make. Though they were not as light and crisp, it was a pleasure to bite into one and recollect the memories of our childhood. Latha said that she used wheat flour (atta), butter, dry coconut and sugar. Amma said that she was using maida (refined wheat flour), rava (semolina), fresh coconut, ghee and sugar, all of them mixed and pounded to make a smooth dough. I very well remember that she used to give us some dough to be pounded in the ‘oraLu’ (grinding stone with a depression in the center) using a ‘haare’ (a heavy metal pestle) and it used to take a very long time to pound it to her satisfaction. In between we could just take out small lumps of the dough and stuff them into our mouth. Even the raw dough was tasty! After the dough was ready, amma would light the kerosene stove, and sit in front of that with the rolling pin in hand, rolling the dough into small ‘rottis’ and roasting them, on low flame. It was painstaking job and it would be hours before one big and one small ‘SWAY’ (soap powder) boxes were full of crisp, light, golden brown BRs, literally ‘Melting in the mouth’.
Amma says that she usually started after packing us off to school, around 10 am and would finish by the time our father came home for lunch - usually 3 pm. Five hours in front of the stove! Sometimes there would be a post lunch session too. Our school was a full day affair, 10 AM to 5 PM, and by the time we returned from school there would not be any signs of amma’s toil. But the lingering fragrance of roasting BRs informed us about the goodies and lead us to the ‘Sway’ box. We got an idea of the work involved in preparing BRs when we witnessed the process during holidays. But even then, after pounding the dough, we just left amma for herself in the kitchen and were occupied with our ‘Golis’ (marbles), ‘Buguris’ (tops) or ‘chinni -danaaDu’ (a game played using two wooden sticks, the smaller one with tapered ends to be lifted and stuck with the longer one) or simply chatting with Datta (a gift of a friend - two years elder to me but equally friendly with me, my brother and sister who were younger to me by three and six years respectively. No childhood memory is complete without Datta) in the shade of our guava tree. Now, when I think of her toiling in front of the stove the whole day, alone, and we enjoying ourselves with games and friends, I feel guilty. But that’s childhood, taking our parents for granted. Still, I wonder what made her take up such tasks and spend half her life feeding us? Was the sight of her children greedily stuffing things into their mouths so rewarding?
Now at eighty six, shrunk and frail, she sits on her arm chair all day, reading something or the other and says that she has to put the book down every now and then and rest, as her hands ache holding the book. You mention rolling and roasting hundreds of BRs and she says “I sometime wonder if I really did all that”?
‘Biscuit Rotti’ tasted wonderful on its own but smeared with a thick layer of butter, it was heaven. The trouble was that butter was not always available. It was expensive and was brought home only once a month or so for preparing ghee (clarified butter). Amma would usually keep aside a small bowlful of butter before heating it and incidentally if BR was also there, we got to enjoy the combination. By god’s grace we have plenty of butter at home now, but the same god has also graced us with plenty of cholesterol and we are only allowed just a look at the big bowlful of butter twice a day! But if Latha succeeds in gathering enough will and patience, attempts and gets the BRs perfect the next time, butter sandwich it is going to be! Cholesterol be damned.
PS: For the benefits of JKs: There were two schools of thought about preparation of BRs. Indrakka’s and Buchchakka’s. Amma followed Buchchakka’s recipe.