Living in Vancouver, you’d think the prospect of rainy weather wouldn’t be the biggest attraction when heading out on a vacation. Ah, but this wasn’t just any rain – it’s the monsoon in India!
So I jumped at a recent opportunity to spend a short time at home with family and friends, soaking in the sights and sounds of my favourite season.
Naturally, much of my time was devoted to revisiting some of the wonderful foods that are such a part of my monsoon memories of Coorg. There was plenty of baimbale and akki otti, kulaeputtu and maddu puttu of course, because it’s good for you (and I just happen to adore it!).
One of the most effective ways to counter jet lag is to hit the ground running, or, as I prefer, walking. So I convinced myself that arriving in Bangalore to heavy monsoon rains and muddy streets was not an excuse to huddle under the covers and retreat into the twilight zone.
Ignoring hysterical TV reports of overflowing lakes, fish swimming in the streets, and mighty traffic jams, I set off to walk through an old, familiar neighbourhood. Having once lived quite close to the Madiwala market, and driven by it many, many, times over the years, this seemed as good a time as any to visit it. read more…
One of my favourite places to shop in Vancouver is a somewhat chaotically run Persian store that carries a smallish but interesting range of products. The selection of foods – including cheeses and preserves from Eastern Europe and Turkey, rice, spices, lentils, and most of all, the fresh produce – makes it a magnet for a multi-ethnic clientele.
Inching along in the invariably long line-up for the check-out, you’ll hear what I can only assume is “Oh my goodness! Is this where the line ends?!” in languages ranging from Russian and Farsi, to Spanish, Cantonese, Tamil, and Punjabi!
Whether you’re sorting through a pile of okra, flipping nopales, or picking up big, fragrant bunches of herbs, or unripe plums and grapes, there’s a a good chance you’ll get into a bit of a chat with a fellow shopper.
Besides joking about the bazaar-like muddle (complete with trampled fruit and vegetables underfoot) that is the store, the most common topics that come up in conversation tend to be centred around the fresh produce. Queries like “What do you make with that?” and “What do you make with that?” are traded back and forth.
Most recently, while delving into a box of plantains in the store, a curious fellow shopper who was reaching for the riper fruit, asked what I was going to make with the “greenest ones” I was searching for. The short answer was “pan fried plantain with Indian spices”.
A few more shoppers joined in the conversation, and every one had a favourite and unique recipe suggestion, using both unripe and ripe plantains.
This scenario plays out all too often. Shuffling along in the lineup for a cup of coffee or tea, I can feel a steadily rising sense of panic as my turn at the counter approaches. I’d really like a little something to snack on, but I can’t decide what. The display case looms, and my mind skips long like Goldilocks, looking for that “just right” bite.
One of those giant muffins? No. A scone? Cake? Doughnut? No, no, no. Those cookies are all too big and sugary. The sandwiches look good. But I’ve eaten lunch so I don’t need one just now. Everyone else seems to know what they want. This is moving along too quickly. Fruit? Muesli bar ? My turn to order…Aaaargh!
“One tea please. Yes, that”ll be all.”
And that’s the moment when I know what I really want - a biscuit with a bit of a bite. A khara* biscuit, actually.
When buying biscuits in bakeries in India, you usually have several savoury options to choose from.
Arguably one of Canada’s most famous exports, maple syrup is produced primarily in Eastern Canada from the sap of varieties of maple trees. The main harvest is in spring.
This year’s unusually warm weather has prompted an early harvesting of maple sap. The quote below is from an article titled “Sugar sommeliers: How warming weather influences Ontario’s maple syrup production“, posted on rabble.ca, by blogger Jen Halsall:
“‘Syrup is a bit like wine,’ says Ray Bonenberg, a maple sugar producer in Pembrooke and spokesperson for the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association. ‘You get different flavours from different soils. It’s not dramatic; it’s subtle. But there are different flavours, there’s no question about it.’ “
No question about it at all. And it’s a multi- million dollar industry that takes the business of grading and marketing maple sugar very seriously.
In India, which is perhaps better known as a leading grower of sugarcane, there is also a long history of sugar production from the sap of a variety of palm trees. These include the Indian date palm, the Asian Palmyra palm, and the Fishtail palm.
Each of these palms produce sugars every bit as complex and varied as maple sugar, but they are nowhere close to being as widely appreciated (or promoted, for that matter).