Rama Parthasarathy (61) discovered her passion for cooking rather early on in life. When she was 10 years old, to be precise. At that tender age, she would watch her mother put together meals for the family with such dexterity that it stayed with her.
She grew up, life happened, and she went about doing things. Never wanting to lose touch with her love for cooking, Rama would often be seen in the kitchen rustling up meals and savoury treats for people who knew her. Friends and family members who knew of her culinary prowess would often order food from her.
She worked in a school in Chennai, in their administration department. But once she retired in April 2020, she decided to pursue the passion full-time.
However, that time coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and she diverted her attention to cooking nutritious meals for those who had contracted the virus.
A humble beginning
Rama’s daughter-in-law, Shivakrupa Rajaram, who helps her in this venture, speaks to The Better India.
“We saw what the virus was doing to people, and we decided to start making nutritious meals for those who needed it. The meals are what we eat ourselves at home, comprising of rasam, sambar, vegetable and rice,” she says. Ramaa’s Kitchen was started with the idea of helping out people in and around Mylapore, the area where they live, but soon word spread to other areas.
On average, Ramaa’s Kitchen caters to 20 lunch orders and about 8 dinner orders each day.
“My mother-in-law is up each morning by 4.45 a.m. to start preparing these meals. I ensure that all the chopping work is done and kept ready for her,” says Shivakrupa. Speaking about her mother-in-law, Shivakrupa says, “I watch her pray to her mother every morning before she starts her day. She invokes her blessings to ensure that the day goes well, and she can make good food for all those who need it. She derives a lot of her strength from her late mother.”
Lunch, which is priced at Rs 110 a meal, is usually delivered between 9.30 am to 10.00 am each day, while dinner consists of idli-chutney, upma, Pongal and chapatti. “We cater to many old couples who like to have brunch, and therefore ensuring that we maintain this time is critical,” says Rama. The menu changes every day to ensure that those who order do not get bored. Ramaa’s Kitchen also delivers breakfast and dinner, though Shivakrupa adds that the maximum orders come for lunch.
Since the food is being made for COVID-19 patients, the spice levels are moderate. Shivakrupa says, “There is a young girl, who is a student at the school my mother-in-law was working at who comes to help in packing the food. Amongst the three of us, we have been managing well so far. We only take on as much as we can handle.”
A passion ignited in the 1970’s
Rama has been making and selling various types of appalam and papadam for many years. But she decided to launch a formal brand only last year, in 2020. She says, “Friends and family would often place their order with me. Whether for the pickles, podi (powder) or appalam that I make. They would tell me the quantity they wanted and then come home and collect it. There was nothing formal about it.”
Rama adds, “In the 70’s my mother would make these appalams and vadams and send them to the U.S. There was a great demand even then for what we made. While I always wanted to make something out of it, I couldn’t give it my time and attention early on.”
Brand ‘Ramaa’s Kitchen’ came into being because of Rama’s son – Aravindh.
“They were the ones who put it all together. I started making some posts on social media platforms, and before I knew it, I was told that we had to parcel some of the appalam to Jammu,” says Rama.
Speaking about the products they make, Shivakrupa says, “Everything is made by the two of us. We source every ingredient needed, and we ensure that we make it like we would for our own consumption. Some of the bestsellers include onion vadam, ompodi vettal and the urad dal appalam, all of which are sold at Rs 100 for 250 grams.”
Speaking about one of the ingredients that go into making the vadams and appalams nice and crunchy, Shivakrupa says, “We add pirandai (adamant creeper) water to the products, and that ensures that they are crunchy.”
Ramaa’s Kitchen has also added sambar, rasam and idli chutney powder and make pickles during the summer months. They also courier packages to various places across India and can be contacted at +91 6380 816 497.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)