2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

A Mom Is a Mom and Can Never Be a Facebook Friend

A Mom Is a Mom and Can Never Be a Facebook Friend

Appams and Shtew

Easter breakfast at home is always appams and shtew. It’s extra special on Easter day: after 40 days of Lent, of no-meat days, the delectable goat meat shtew is the perfect meat fix and indulgence.

Appams remind me of my tipsy aunts. Growing up, appam batter was always fermented with toddy. The aunts would take swigs of the toddy, to check its strength and taste. There was a special joy in seeing righteous aunts acting silly. A spirited argument would follow, on who makes the tastiest appams. They all agreed that Ammini’s appams were the best.

Appams are notoriously difficult to get right. The batter is prepared by grinding soaked rice with coconut milk, adding a roux and toddy (or yeast), hand beating the batter and leaving it to rise overnight. No using ready-to-cook powders.

On Easter, after church, we would rush home hungry. A ladle of batter would be poured into the heavy appam chatti (wok) and swirled around. Would the appam stick or come off the chatti? Would it have a lacy edge and a spongy middle? Would the edge be wafer thin with just a hint of crunch?

It was a moment of reckoning.

A disaster? There would be a frantic rush to salvage the batter by adding egg whites, baking soda, coconut milk, or even coconut water? A total disaster? Sigh. We would end up eating bread with shtew.

The perfect appam? Get ready to eat a meal fit for the gods.

We say shtew, you say stew. My Syrian Christian community would pronounce it thus. My aunts did, too, and my grandmother before that. Could a shtew be a stew? Could meat gently simmered in coconut milk and delicately spiced be called a stew? To complicate it further, we call goat meat ‘mutton’ in India. So ‘mutton shtew’ is a misnomer and a mispronounced dish.

With the appam, the shtew-stew has to be goat meat. It is a marriage made in heaven and no chicken is allowed to break it.

Ammini can’t make her appams anymore. She rues the fact that her daughters don’t make it like she does. First extract of coconut milk, second extract, third … who has the time, they tell her. They do their own thing.

She reads her daughter’s Facebook status: “Made awesome appams like my mom’s. Love you ma!”

100 “likes” and 50 “aww” and “awesome” comments.

Ammini: “Where is the photograph? I hope you didn’t use the ready-to-cook powder and make it on a non-stick appam chatti.”

Gosh! How embarrassing. I need to unfriend my mom. A mom is a mom and can never be a Facebook friend.

But she does make the most awesome appams and shtew.

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