The History and Geography of Food-II

In the last post I had written about the connection of geographical location and food. In this post lets see the history.

Contrary to beliefs, cooking does take a lot of planning especially in the olden days when there were no cold storages, transportation was not good and so women had to plan ahead especially for the monsoon times.

The monsoon especially in the coastal areas of Konkan regions are long and wet. As i mentioned earlier, there were no cold storages and neither was good transportation available to transport vegetables. Fishing would also be off-limits. And so the preparations would start from the summer itself. Onion and garlic would be bought in bulk and hung in bunches in the pantry. Ashgourds would also be stored similarly. Rice and all types of grain/ lentils would be bought aired and stored.

March would arrive with its tender mangoes and the pickle making season. Before that the redchillies too would be bought dried and stored. The fish eaters would dry fish.

If I am not wrong at the same time the cashews would also ripen and would be dried. In a konkani household some cashews are husked and some are not. The unhusked ones called as ‘bibbe’are used for making certain delicacies especially to make stir fry with Ivygourd (gherkins/tendli/kundru). This is a highly desired dish especially during festivals.

After this part was over, then it was the season of making papad and vadis (odis) would arrive. On an average there would be about 10-12 varieties of papads that would be made. Some bland, some spicy, some sweet. You may ask why such variety? For a joint family so much was needed especially when no vegetables were available. SO a staple diet in the monsoon were rice, dal, pickles and any of these papads. These papads would be either deep fried in oil or just plain roasted on fire.

You might wonder that the women of those times were burdened with work. Yes they were but then it was team work. They were helped in the grinding (on big grinding stones) by the men. The younger generation would look after running of the household, looking after the kids etc and the older generation with all these chores.

The rolling out of these papads would be done by all the women of the neighbourhood akin to pasta making in Italy. Usually the days of the week were fixed for these rolling out. Like rolling in House A on Monday, in House B on Tuesday and so on. The chores would thus be reduced and also the women would enjoy exchanging ‘news’ joking, singing etc. It used to be the time to connect.

And thus would start the monsoon season.

I have concentrated on relating what used to happen in the monsoon season in the Konkan area as that is what I have witnessed. I had a wonderful type reminiscing and narrating these activities, hope you had a nice time reading it.

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24 thoughts on “The History and Geography of Food-II

  1. Contrary to belief that women were the weaker sex which did all the work, our traditional lifestyle in various parts of the country did give them equality in many ways that are incomprehensible to the present generation. Nice post reminiscing about these customs. 🙂

    • I agree totally. They were the queen of their domain unlike today where in we juggle to be jack of all trades and master of none. The respect that they got was also unique. I can only dream about the respect that my nanai or dadi got

  2. The art of making dry fish may have slipped from your post, it used to generally on the beach front, with salted fish and prawns dried to be fried in monsoon. Great narration of tradition followed in Konkan coast……yummy cashew brings saliva along with papdis

  3. Bhagyashree, Really enjoyed this post and the account of the community effort.
    Brought about a nostalgic wave, reminded me of my grandma’s, my grandpa’s in mysore, and the andhra community where we lived.
    Your so right about getting it ready before the monsoon hits.

    • Those days there were bigger houses and bigger communities. Now its smaller houses and no community. Neighbours now meet in Facebook and sometimes don’t even know who lives next door

  4. Very interesting to read. My mother was an adept cook. She made lovely papads, aloo chips, the ones that are dried and then fried, so many varieties of pickles, carrot shikanji and so on. She did all this on her own with a servant helping her with chopping, mixing etc. We did not really see any community activity but mom was really active. I did not get an opportunity to learn so much from her. Your post was nostalgic, and I got to learn about the Konkan area too :).

    • What I have written about is what I saw in Mangalore. We ourselves did not have such activity in Bhilai. Same like your mom, amma handled everything on her own. Now I am trying to learn from her and putting her recipes on paper so that at least the future generation will have something to lean back on

  5. Bhagya,
    I loved reading this because I grew up in in joint family. I also used to enjoy the papad vadi season as we children liked spreading the vadi. My mom used make Batata papod and I miss all that now . During my recent trip to M’lore I got Phonsa and Batata papads.
    Just miss those days. Your post just took me a few years back.. It was the childrens’ duty to drive away the crows when these things were dried.

    • 🙂 Glad that u liked the post.
      Have u had ‘sakkare’ happolu, the sweet papad that is eaten unfried. Usually those and bibbes would be dried together and we kids would have those while guarding the happols 😉

      • I haven’t eaten sakkare happolu. is it made of sweet potato. My SIL is frm from Udupi, shall ask her to get it on the next trip.

      • If I am not wrong, sakkare happolu are made of wheat and no they r not made of sweet potatoes and I don’t think they are available commercially. Even I had them last about 15 yrs back

  6. My SIL is writing a blog on all Konkani cuisine but mostly that are from Kerala Gsb side as we belong to that region. Have a look . It is quite popular among Konkanis. prabhaskitchen.wordpress.com

    • Here I have written about how people got ready for the monsoons. And to my knowledge papads and vadis are vegetarian only.
      As I have mentioned I am a vegetarian by choice and love to have ghaas phoos

  7. this is such a suuper cool post. Everything is a community or a group activity and not individualized.

    Sweet Papads? never knew about them or tasted… me getting tempted to explore this now 🙂

    • Yes, we have chapters on team efforts in our University books but group effort has always been in vogue from times immemorial.
      Now even in my community sweet papads are not made. It requires a unique skill and cannot be stored for very long and so its is not available commercially, otherwise would have sent you some. 🙂

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