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Hing in my molars April 19, 2009

Posted by globejam in Childhood, Childhood trauma.

Of the many things that have gotten unreachably wedged into my molars, and there have been quite a few, including Cadbury’s Five Star bar, toffees and the nutrine milk sweet in a green wrapper that we no longer seem to get,  the thing that gave me most grief was hing. 

To those ignorant of south Indian cuisine, Hing, or Perungayam(Tamil) is Asofoetida, a resin-like gum used as a taste enhancer with supposed medicinal properties.  Quite justifiably and without exaggeration, it is also known as the Devil’s dung and the Stinking gum.

In our house my mother was an enthusiastic user of hing, especially for Sambar.  While, today you can get hing in powder form, in those days it was available only in the form of a cake the size of a regular bath soap.  Despite serious protestations from the rest of the family, especially the children, my mother never failed to add a generous finger-nail sized chunk every day.

The hard piece would get cooked in the Sambar, and instead of dissolving, would turn into a gooey glob with a sticky outer layer and a hard inner core.  It would then camouflage itself under some dal from the sambar or hide under a convenient bite-sized piece of vegetable, waiting to attack the delicate taste buds of an unfortunate child.  

Invariably, I would be the one to get it and during the chewing process, it would get firmly wedged into one or the other molar. After that, let me tell you, no amount of scratching, yelling, clawing, gargling or rinsing can dislodge it.  Not for an hour, at least.  And during this period, the taste and smell that only the devil in his foulest mood could have conjured up would overpower all other senses and turn me into a blubbering wreck.

Some days, my mother would giggle and say “I wonder why you get it all the time! It’s never happened to me, not even once”.  On other days, she would outright deny having put any hing in the Sambar. She would just simply aver, “What nonsense!  There wasn’t even any hing in the house.  I was actually planning to ask you to go buy some this morning.  I don’t know where it came from!”

To this day, I think it was her way of exacting revenge for some things I may have done… like being born, for instance.



1. padmajav - April 21, 2009

didn’t know the good old perungayam was called ‘the devil’s dung’!

globejam - April 21, 2009

Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asafoetida. I speak vonly the truth.

2. maami - April 21, 2009

Hate it.
And you forgot to mention the post-meal burp smelling of perungayam. Eugh!

globejam - April 21, 2009

Yewww! Glad I didn’t remember that… till now! Grrr!

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