Looking for particular Pongal meals like Ven Pongal and Paruppu Vadai. Girija Venkatachalam runs ‘Girijapaati Meals’ to supply genuine selfmade podis, snacks, sweets, pickles, and savouries.
As Pongal approaches, Girija Venkatachalam’s house is crammed with festive pleasure. The air is wealthy with the scent of ghee-fried cashews, raisins, and cardamom. Paati (Tamil for grandmother) and her ladies helpers are energetically getting ready particular dishes for the competition. Regardless of working exhausting, fatigue doesn’t present on their faces; the house is energetic with pleasure and laughter.
This 72-year-old runs ‘Girijapaati Meals’ the place she sells conventional home-style South Indian meals objects with “secret household recipes which are over 100 years previous!”
Underneath the model, she gives round 40 forms of genuine selfmade podis, snacks, sweets, pickles, and savouries — together with garlic paruppu podi, bisibele bathtub, thengai podi, vepillai katti, black ulundhu laddu — and the record goes on.
To make the competition extra joyous for city residents, she not too long ago launched ready-to-cook Pongal must-haves like Chakkarai Pongal, Ven Pongal, and the crispy Paruppu Vadai.
“These days, many kids transfer out for research and jobs. Whereas they crave conventional meals, they lack time to cook dinner it, so I made a decision to offer them with easy accessibility to genuine home-style meals. Though it’s best in the event you cook dinner your meals at dwelling to reside an extended wholesome life. However in the event you lack time, then you definitely come to me as a result of I’ll provide you with what I eat and what my household eats,” she says.
Regardless of the massive variety of orders the enterprise receives, Girija says she prepares all meals objects simply the best way she cooks for her grandchildren.
Little question then that her telephone is continually ringing as demand for her South Indian delights is way and huge. However right here’s one thing fascinating, this Chennai resident had not all the time been keen on cooking. Then how did she arrange a model that’s enslaving individuals’s tastebuds?
In dialog with The Higher India, paati shares all about her entrepreneurial journey.
A kitchen mishap that led to a satisfying culinary journey
Born in Chennai, Girija was the eldest of six siblings. Her household hailed from Kalpathi village, positioned on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
“We lived in an enormous joint household of 40 individuals. My mom can be occupied within the kitchen. So, I used to be entrusted with the duties of caring for my siblings — from waking them up, taking them to high school, and serving to them end their homework to feeding them and placing them to sleep,” she says.
Girija by no means entered the kitchen till 1968, which is when she obtained married. Her husband’s household comprised 100 members, and the 18-year-old bride was requested to fry papadums for them. “I had by no means cooked earlier than. This was the primary time that I had stepped contained in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to do however I used to be scared to inform it to my mother-in-law,” she recollects.
“Anyway, I poured oil into a big pan and stood like half a foot away from it. I threw a chunk of papadum into the overheated oil. It splattered over me. Because of this, my shirt obtained caught to the pores and skin and I suffered extreme burns on my shoulder. For the subsequent month, I couldn’t come out of my room as I couldn’t put on a shirt. So, that’s how my first day of cooking at my in-laws’ went,” she laughs.
However that day, Girija determined she should study to cook dinner.
“My mother-in-law began educating me the fundamentals and nuances of cooking. Ultimately, she taught me the standard household recipes. At any time when I might go to my mom, she would additionally share her culinary expertise with me. I used to be studying various recipes from each of my moms. The truth is, my grandmothers additionally handed on their information to me,” she says.
That was how Girija’s culinary journey started. And right now, a grandmother herself, she makes use of her household’s secret recipes to feed hundreds of people that crave home-style South Indian meals.
It’s by no means too late to run a enterprise!
Earlier than beginning the meals firm, Girija had been cooking conventional delights for her family members and associates for over 5 many years. She commercialised her merchandise when the demand for her merchandise grew outdoors her prolonged household.
The thought to run an organization got here to her amid the COVID-19 pandemic when males from low-income backgrounds in her group began shedding their jobs. “Their wives would come to me for jobs as they misplaced their means to feed their households,” she says.
Lovingly known as paati (Tamil for grandmother), Girija began using these ladies in her kitchen. Alongside, because the demand for her merchandise grew, she formally launched her firm ‘Girija Paati’s’ in 2021.
Each festive season, the crew caters to at the least 2,000 orders from throughout the nation from states like Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Gujarat.
In the meantime, Girija, even on the age of 72, continues to dedicate at the least 10 hours to cooking day by day. Her day begins with cooking meals for her staff, then experimenting with meals objects within the kitchen, supervising the employees, and winding up the day by checking the accounts.
“If it was not for this enterprise, I don’t know what I might have been doing. About 10 years again, I misplaced my husband, and progressively, all my kids and grandchildren moved out one after the other. I had nothing a lot to do. As soon as, I had 100 members in my prolonged household, now I didn’t have sufficient individuals to deal with. Everyone obtained busy. However now I’ve so many individuals to feed,” she smiles.
“I agree that I have to decelerate. I do know that in 10 years, I’ll not have this vitality stage. However I don’t want to take retirement until my final day,” says paati as she goes on to cater to her subsequent set of orders for Pongal.
If you wish to attempt Girija Paati’s South Indian delights, you’ll be able to order right here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat. All images: Girija Paati.