Tag Archive | cusine

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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History and Geography of food

I love eating. But mind you the food should be Indian and vegetarian.

No, it does not mean that I do not like My Pizzas and Pastas, I do. But I am much more comfortable eating Indian food.

Ever wondered why the same vegetables are cooked in different styles in our country.

Growing up I remember my Bengali neighbour cooking food in mustard oil and us cringing our nose in disgust. The smell of mustard oil is so strong. But the chorchoris, the gobhi fry were so tasty that Till date I like my gobhi fried in mustard oil only (provided that it is cooked by someone else in some other home 🙂 ).

Us being Mangaloreans love food cooked in coconut oil but in those days in Bhilai (that’s where we were in those days) coconut oil used to be very scarce and so was reserved to cooking for festival days. And those days the neighbours would cringe.

Our food is so very related to our location culture isn’t it. Most parts of North India use Mustard oil as a cooking medium because of its abundance there. Karnataka, Kerala uses Coconut and coconut oil in abundance because of its abundance there. Maharashtra and Andhra uses groundnut oil for similar reasons. Of course nowadays it is usually Sunflower/ Canola oil in most households for its health benefits.

In our home rice was the staple diet being a Konkani home. Rice in the form of dosas in the morning (and of course Coconut chutney), rice in the noon and night. But because I was born in the North I have this love for wheat too. I often wonder why it was so, was it because the five elements of Bhilai unleashed this love for wheat or was it because apart from rice, rotis too were a constant in our homes.

And then there are the sweets, I love the basundi of Maharashtra, the khajas of AP, the rasmalai of Bengal and of course the payasams down south made with rice, jaggery and coconut milk. Again it is to be noted that the sweets of the north will be milk based made with sugar and those of the south will have coconut in some form and will have jaggery. Usually that is. It is not that in the North there are no sweets made with jaggery and South Indians do make sweets with sugar.

But all said and done, food has a history no doubt but the fact remains that food cooked even with the most basic ingredients will taste heavenly if made with love.