Okay so -um- for the yew year in like -um- in Indian cultu- so this is actually like a regional thing for -um- like South India and -um- they- the New Year and y’know how there’s like Persian New Year and like Chinese New Year like it’s not exactly like January 1st it’s like the Spring equinox-ish? So, -um- what they do is like you have like it’s mo- it’s more of a cultural thing than like actual religious, but like you do like- you do like a prayer and then -um- you drink this -um- this juice and like- ugh it’s so gross oh my God I haaaate it.
It’s -um- my Mom makes it every year and like I was at someone else’s house this year and like they fed it to me and I had to drink it -um- and like so there’s like the five tastes in it.
Basically, it’s like supposed to represent how your- your year won’t totally be like sweet or sour so like it’s just like -um- so you drink that and like it’s supposed to represent that your year will be like have like good, bad and like happy, sad. Yeah.
When I asked the Informant if she had any special foods or recipes she could share with me, she through her head back and scrunched up her face. She immediately told me that “there’s this terrible drink!” She began to tell me about Ugadi pachadi, a holiday drink invaluable to Telugu culture. The drink combines the flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, spicy and umami. When she showed me photos, she quipped that it looked like something that comes up from your stomach rather than goes down. I agreed.
As the Informant said, he Mom makes it for their family every year and every year she suffers down a gulp. The flavorful concoction, called pachadi, is a mixture of mango, neem flowers, jaggery, tamarind, chili powder, and salt and is part of the celebration of Ugadi, the Indian New Year. These ingredients provide a mixture of all five tastes and the drink is believed to have predictive powers. The first taste to meet your tongue is said to be a metaphor for the upcoming year. Hope for a sweet taste. Because of this, it’s common for mothers to tweak the recipe or pour the drink to make sure the mango is the first to touch the tongue.
For all the awful things the Informant had to say about the flavor and appearance of pachadi, a smile never left her face as she told me about the drink. It was clear that the good memories of the experience with her family outweighed the sour taste left in her mouth. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. I wish my own culture had a ritual such as this. Instead of a fun fortune-telling drink to maintain a love-hate relationship with, the New Year in my culture is celebrated mainly with alcohol – which I would guess most people also have a love-hate relationship with. That being said, drinking Ugadi pachadi seems like a wholesome family-oriented tradition akin to the way my family spent the night before Easter dying eggs.