There are two sorts of pongal that Amma makes: the salty one or ven pongal, and the sweet chakkara pongal. Amma insisted that we eat both sorts, so I'd force down a minuscule portion of the salty stuff, and then eagerly reach for the sweet. For chakkara pongal, rice is cooked into a slurry with milk and ghee, while in another pot, jaggery is boiled with water to make a thick syrup. Everything is then stirred up together and the rice turns brown and sticky. Raisins are dropped in and they plump in the heat. Amma finishes it all off with a dusting of cardamom, ginger, and freshly grated coconut. I couldn't get enough of the stuff.
For a long time, it seemed almost sacrilegious to make pongal on any day, other than Pongal. So I'd wait for it on the breakfast table, each fourteenth of January, wondering if it would be as good as I remembered. It always was.
These days, we make it far more often. It makes for an indulgent weekend breakfast, and the leftovers are sublime, just eaten cold from the fridge. And really, we never bother with making the ven pongal anymore. Given a choice between salty and sweet, I pick sweet. Always.