Jariya Azeez, who runs Abati, wants to support and unify the home bakers and food entrepreneurs and enhance their chance of sustaining the business’s longevity. Rila from Abati tells us that Kayalkoodam was started to provide support and companionship to traditional bakers and food makers in Kayalpattinam. “We came across so many bakers and food entrepreneurs who make traditional food from scratch — they retain the original favour of the sweet and savoury. We wanted to do something for the bakers that can give them a chance to showcase their talents and skills. We know the value of traditions and our work at Abati is based on it. We are focused on helping the environment and upholding the traditions and culture and not let them die,” says Rila.
Recently, a few women from the town got together along with the Abati team and talked about how they can be of benefit to the community. “We wanted people to see the culture behind every dhammadai and flour biscuits. Kayalkoodam is also a platform where bakers and food entrepreneurs can find work. As the first step, we hosted a competition called Bakeathon for the bakers in our town to showcase their baking talents. Most of these bakers are self-taught, there are very few bakers who have been into the traditional baking business,” she adds.
Sumaiya Mustafa another member of Abati explains how dhammadai and kayam are made and their benefits. “Dhammadai is made with rice semolina, thala paal (thick extracted coconut milk), eggs, milk and sugar. Eggs in sweet dishes aren’t conventional in Tamil homes. But for this dish, we use eggs. Kayam is more similar to halwa but has a lot of medicinal properties - it is made with 26 native medicinal barks and herbs. Nursing mothers and girls after their first periods are fed with kayam. It is made using ingredients like coconut milk, nuts, palm sugar jaggery, eggs, 26 native medicines and sesame oil,” says Sumaiya Mustafa. Kayam making is a tiny and popular home-based business among many women in Kayalpattinam. “The recipe is many decades old and is still used in many households. We wanted Kayalpattinam’s cuisine and cooking methods to have a wide reach,” she smiles.