Most of these common ingredients are available in South Asian grocery stores in every country. There is also a mysterious ingredient in all of these recipes called Asafoetida. It is a common product used in every recipe in India. Asafoetida smells horrible. If you taste it with your finger, it is bitter. It is impossible to believe it does such wonders to all the spicy Indian dishes making all minor flavors come out. Other South Indian dishes include chutneys – spiced dips made from coconuts or tomato and tempered with mustard and chilis. Most of the meals end with ‘curd rice’ – Rice mixed with yogurt topped with pickled mango or lemon. Every time I prepare these dishes, the flavors and aroma of the spices remind me of the many meals I had with my family as a child.Every meal in my grandmother’s kitchen was prepared by all the women of the house. My aunts and my mother would start the preparation by chopping the vegetables in an Aruvamanai (peeler) and grinding the spices. Some meals on special days would take hours to prepare. Mealtime, like every other ritual in my family, followed a strict order of hierarchy based on Gender and age – and gender always trumped age. The men and boys always ate first. We sat cross-legged on the floor of the living room and food was served on rinsed banana leaves. We drank water from stainless steel tumblers, the type that one can find in Indian restaurants everywhere. The women would carry the vessels with various dishes and walk along the line of men and boys and serve as much as requested. At the end of the meal, the women pick up the banana leaves and dump them in the backyard for the cows to eat. Only after cleaning up the dining floor, the women sit down to eat.