Our last “foodie” stop on our trip was in another mountain area, north west of Coonoor and back in Karnataka state but right on the Kerela border, referred to as “Coorg” although that seems to be a colonial era term and is not found on any maps. Significantly we would be entering a dense chunk of the Tata Empire as guests of their hospitality division surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of their agricultural division which they proudly announced that they sold most of their coffee production to Starbucks.
Continue reading “Plantation Pundit” →
The view from the upper bungalow at Acres Wild Farmstay, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Our journey after Melkote began with being picked up by a driver and his car as we said our goodbyes to the Kouragi family and thanked them for hosting us. We had arranged through a travel agent that specialized in culinary focused travel to visit a cheese maker, and to visit a coffee plantation before we had to leave India. We had four nights left, and two of them would be spent at Acres Wild, a “22 acre, family-run organic cheesemaking farm and farmstay” according to their website. First we had to get there.
Continue reading “Acres Wild” →
The US State Department selected me to serve as an Art Envoy to Doha in Qatar on the Persian Gulf.
Your tax dollars are paying for cultural exchange which I think is important particularly at this moment in American political life.
Continue reading “Teaching art in the Middle East, your tax dollars at work” →
Sambar in the cup, pepper pickle, mint coconut chutney, and a stir-fry veg main dish surround a Finger Millet cake (Ragi Roti) on my plate at one dinner.
Some of you may know that the title is NOT an invitation to dance (though, feel free…) but to eat a lentil-ish soup/stew that is served throughout the South India areas we visited on our trip. In fact it seems to be a central dish to the local cuisines, served all day in a little (often metal) cup beside your roti (bread) and/or rice, and the main dish (vegetable or meat). I found Sambar SO satisfying that I was often tempted to consume multiple cups of it in one sitting, though the local consumers appeared to treat it as a complement to the main dish and primarily for moistening and flavoring your bites of bread and rice in combination with the main dish.
Continue reading “Everybody: SAMBAR!” →
We traveled by train and car from Bangalore to Mysore to Melkote to Coonoor to Coorg and then back to Bangalore. Mostly we were in the southern end of Karnataka state, but Coonoor is just over the border in the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu. In Coorg we stayed less than 10 miles from the Kerela state border, and less than 40 miles from the Arabian Sea coast.
There are several large reservoirs in southern Karnataka which allows for constant irrigation, even in the dry season of crops like coconut and rice and sugar cane which are major cash crops in the area.
The agriculture was just so different than anything I’ve ever experienced I kept a list of all the food crops I saw being grown, followed by a few crops I did not see being grown but saw offered at the markets.
Continue reading “Crops Seen In South India” →
We had seen Jackfruit, the largest tree-grown fruit on Earth, occasionally in asian grocery stores, at asian market stalls, and on Wild And Crazy Food shows on TV, but we had NO IDEA what we would do with it if we ever wanted to eat one, so we had never tried.
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Sign on the dining room wall in our resort “bungalow” amid the coffee and pepper plantations of Coorg in Karnataka, India.
According to their website’s home page the Janapada Seva Trust is “a voluntary organisation functioning in and around Melkote a mofussil town” [meaning rural and not originally part of the East India Company regions of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras] ” in Mandya District of Karnataka, India since 1960. Inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Sarvodaya philosophy the Trust has been striving to create a non-violent, egalitarian order of society. Its core area of work is welfare, education, rural industry, environment and agriculture.”
“Over the years the Trust has built a fine infrastructure for its activities. The accent of the Trust is on self-help and people’s involvement, the Trust seeks support not so much from the State as from people who care.”
We were told by it’s founder, Surendrah Koulagi, that it all began when a 10 year old boy learned about Ghandi’s Salt Satyagraha, or Salt March, that took place in 1930 as one of the first acts of a self-declared sovereignty from the British Empire by the Indian National Congress. When Mr. Koulagi began to understand the philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience, the power found in the action, and the simplicity of its message (“Satyagraha” is a synthesis of the Sanskrit words Satya (truth) and Agraha (insistence on)) he wondered what other important things could be accomplished by a simple insistence on the truth.
Continue reading “Insisting on Truth” →
…or Melukote, or Narayanadri, or Vedadri, or Yadavadri, or Yathishaila, or Thirunarayanapuram. We were guided to this small town north of Mysore and west of Bangalore by friends who had visited many times in the past to support the work of the Janapada Seva Trust. Part of the Trust’s work involves organic agriculture, and I wanted to learn what that was like for them in a very different environment (not to mention the different crops) than Maine. In addition, Alison and I always enjoy visiting out-of-the-way areas when we travel to try to get a better feeling on what “normal life” looks like. Melkote, although beautiful in many ways and full of ancient wonders and important institutions, does not get the daily visits from tourists that a city like Mysore does. It does host a significant festival (Vairamudi) once a year attracting many people (hundreds of thousands according to Wikipedia), but perhaps primarily Indian and religious. Our hosts told us that Melkote attracted the odd backpacker every so often but that white visitors were still unusual.
Continue reading “Melkote” →