In my last post several weeks back I asked was Kerala ready for me, I think I should have asked was I ready for Kerala?
I don’t know what I expected but what I got was a place so full of surprises and unlike anything else India has to offer.
There is still the basic lack of basic hygiene and the usual piles of rubbish, dirt and nastiness piled up in any available spot that occasionally someone might put a match to and create those odours and smells that assault the nasal passages with a blend of pongs and perfumes that continues to remain as a memory, never to be forgotten. That malodorous scent being a cross between smouldering plastics, waste foods and the everyday detritus that mankind has decided is rubbish, all simmering gently together in a not very pleasant heap, that when not alight is picked over by the cows that wander around as they wish, appearing to belong to no one and eating what they find. Add this assault upon the senses to the abject poverty and lack of basic utilities that we in the west enjoy, sewage and sanitation systems, running water and a constant supply of electricity, and not forgetting the plethora of other things the developed world take very much for granted and expect as an everyday god given right, most of which are things that are a far off dream for the average Indian going about his daily life, and you might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would want to go to such a place, and more importantly go there for a holiday!
Well that is really very simple, in that for every gut wrenching negative that India offers up for inspection, as it surely does round every corner and up every alley, there are ten things that compensate for those negatives and things that no one can change without altering an infrastructure that has “worked” for its people for millennia, and continues to do so to this day; a country where community is more than just a word and life is something that is lived rather than presented to you on a plate, and all that bundled together into areas of outstanding, and spectacular interest and beauty, that will continue to draw me back to it as often as I can, filling a part of me with the bounty that is the joy of India, and something that I will never tire of, irrespective of the frustrations and contradictions that are undoubtedly India.
For those of you that follow me they will know that my focus in this Blog is the food, and more especially the curry that is my raison detre for writing, although I do hope that you will forgive me for presenting a few comments and ideas on the country that holds such a place in my heart of affection and love.
Yes I do love India what a place……
How can you not?
Moving swiftly on…….Anyone for lunch?
The food of Kerala was I must say some of the very best regional foods that I have ever experienced in India…. wow, I have included a photo of one of the banquets that it was my pleasure to enjoy, and some of the dishes being extrodinary in textures and flavours, some that I still do not know what they were called, and occasionally so regional as to have no English translation
The following banquet a lunchtime feast was presented on the last day of a backwaters cruise out of Allepey a place that can best be described as an area of outstanding natural beauty where there are many “houseboats available for anyone for hire. coming with crew and a cook whose sole purpose in life as to tickle your taste buds and in my case, and that was achieved with gusto at every meal!
This particular one served on Banana leaves for good effect and eaten with the hands as only a good meal should, a meal of celebration called “sadhya” and one with a few rules like there is no onion or garlic used and generally a vegetarian meal always served at lunchtime, however this particular banana leaf of joy had a main dish of a parcel of local fish caught that very morning and marinated in a paste, of chilli turmeric and local spices that give the food that unique and very regional taste, gently cooked and presented alongside rice and veg side dishes that you would never find in the local restaurant. This was perhaps the highlight meal of the trip but there were many others featuring seafood, vegetables, chicken and meats all presented in the simple way that says judge me on the taste.
Food is an international language and “Curry” what ever that is seems to be one dialect that is spoken pretty much everywhere throughout Asia, diversity of flavours and textures for sure but curry by any other name. The masters of the flavours and the spices for me are without doubt the Indian subcontinent nations, although some might argue that Malay and the south-eastern Asian nations certainly have a thing or two to say on the subject of great curry.
Whatever curry you choose it is an irrevocable fact however that any curry eaten in its land of origin cooked with the local taste and ingredients is far superior to that of the high street where traditional taste are subdued for the sake of the vagaries’ of local taste often for the realisation of profit, rather than a genuine reflection of the true tastes and flavours, and I for one wish they wouldn’t do it, but no one listens to little old me, and all can do is keep on showing the world the traditional recipes that have made the dish that is Indian Curry great throughout the world….