The last 5 weeks of enforced eating at home has resulted in the (re)discovery of possibly the tastiest dish in the world. Recipe follows.
Prepare, order or get invited to a proper South Indian meal. It doesn't matter which state it is from, I have verified that the AP, TN and Kerala versions all suffice, and unless our Kannadiga brethren and cistern are children of a different culinary god, their version should work too.
The meal should contain (roughly): some form of podi + ghee, an oily curry of some sort (brinjal etc.), a dry-ish coconut based thing, an isotope of pulusu/kozhambu/what have you, sambar, rasam, curd, pickles, pappadam/appadam and so on. The usual stuff. Just make sure there's enough variety. A degree of license is permitted, depending on your genetics and proclivities. The Mallu may not countenance the oily brinjal curry that warms the cockles of Reddygaru's heart, but she can easily prepare this dish with a kaaLan, olan, puLi inji type of mishmash.
Having consumed all this in the order and manner prescribed by the relevant shastras, at the last moment, one is to refuse the paayasam in the plate/leaf (only for a brief while).
If you tilt your head downwards and examine the receptacle for a moment, you will find a an oily, viscous sludge. It behaves somewhat like mercury, flows sluggishly, has enough surface tension to form globules, which merge easily enough to form larger globules under the sweeping action of a palm across the plate/leaf. Bits of rice and coconut will interrupt this otherwise homogeneous medium, but do not detract from the overall effect we are questing for.
If you have done everything right, the whole sludge thing will look as though it is meant to be fused with glass and poured into stainless steel containers, later to be disposed off at Yucca Mountain type places.
But appearances are deceptive. This goo, my friends, is the Holy Grail. Slurp some of it up before it trickles down your palm and see how your mind explodes with taste and texture and memories and many other things besides. It is home, it is the world, it is tactile, it is ineffable, it is nostalgia, it is promise, it is It.