The weekend was very laid back and relaxed, perfect after the journey here and a pleasant surprise as I was honestly expecting to be perpetually exhausted, mainly mentally by trying to properly grasp India.
My hosts are doing an amazing job of easing me into it all, with 3 things in particular….. Understanding Indian home life, understanding and appreciating the Food, and understanding the context of what India is today. I’m doing my absolute best to comprehend all I am being taught and wish to pass on the information – in summary – to you! (which also serves to help me in revising and recording all I’ve learnt ☺ ) As a result of the sheer amount of information to share I’ll save the History lesson for the next post and just focus on Home life and Food
I love homes – made quite obvious by the title of this blog. One of the main reason I love homes are because homes are real. Homes are where people relax, where they interact with family and friends whom they love and where they don’t have to put up false pretences or act. I love my Indian home and all the funny habits and rituals that never cease to amaze me. One particularly fun one is
BATH TIME for Leo and Joey! The dogs are brought into the biggest bathroom and what follows is a series of physical strain (trying to hold these big dogs in one place), havoc (water and soap suds flying everywhere – especially when the dogs shake) and the general hilarity of the whole scene which happens once a week.
Even once the taps are turned off the saga continues with the drying process; which Joey takes into his own paws – sliding along the wall to squeeze out the excess water. Whilst Leo collapses in a heap and after the barking and jumping and skitso behaviour, even simply lifting his head seems an impossible chore
Joey’s pride in both his ingenuity and his beauty is very evident as he places himself strategically for a photo-op and does a series of incredibly convincing “Yawwwn, being this ridiculously good-looking is SOOOOOO tiring ” poses
And how could I not mention the cows! As an Australian with an agricultural background i find the jurisdiction and prominence of cows absolutely fascinating! Sacred in Hinduism (revered as the source of food and symbol of life and may never be killed) and Jainism (as it is a non-violent religion so all animals and life forms, not just cows are protected) they roam around at liberty. Free of owners and showing incredible possession they command right of way on the already hectic roads
Got a bit carried away there -back to home life and my next topic that home life pretty much revolves around – food!
Just like my last destination, Italy, food is not just a means of sustenance. In fact i might even make the bold call that food is more valued in India than Italy! I say this because food acts as a very distinctive symbol and reminder of heritage, a cultural expression, a way of life, a constant talking point and a wholly enjoyable and engrossing experience
(it’s hard to focus on much else when your taste buds are inundated with a complex array of spices and frequently set on fire – in the best way possible – by generous portions of chilies!)
First and formost i must clear something up “Curry” doesn’t exist in India! The word curry is an anglicised version of the Tamil word khari (கறி ), which is usually understood to mean “gravy” or “sauce” rather than “spices”. So although there is no one specific attribute that marks a dish as “curry”, some distinctive spices used in many ‘curry’ dishes include turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and red pepper. Curry’s popularity in recent decades has spread outward from the Indian subcontinent to figure prominently in international cuisine. Consequently, each culture has adopted spices in its indigenous cooking to suit its own unique tastes and cultural sensibilities. Curry can therefore be called a pan-Asian or global phenomenon with immense popularity in Thai, Japanese and British cuisines (Curry has taken over fish and chips as the most popular food!)
Indian cuisine is characterized by the use of various spices, herbs and other vegetables and sometimes fruits grown in India and also for the widespread practice of vegetarianism across many sections of its society. Each family of Indian cuisine is characterized by a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques (which can be mind boggling for the foreign traveller). As a consequence, it varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse Indian subcontinent.
The staples of Indian cuisine are rice, atta (whole wheat flour), and a variety of lentils, including masoor (most often red lentil), channa (bengal gram), toor (pigeon pea or yellow gram), urad (black gram) and mung (green gram). The most important or frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed, cumin, turmeric , fenugreek , asafoetida, ginger, coriander, mint, and garlic. Popular spice mixes are garam masala, which is usually a powder of five or more dried spices, commonly including cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. Each region, and sometimes each individual chef, has a distinctive blend of garam masala. Most Indian curries are cooked in vegetable oil. In North and West: peanut oil. West and South: Coconut oil. East: mustard oil. South: Gingelly oil ALL OF INDIA: sunflower oil, soybean oil and ghee.
North vs. South vs. East vs. West (even vs. the centre!)
North Indian cuisine is notorious for huge portions and high quantities of dairy and oil. The staple food of most of North India is a variety of lentils, vegetables, and wheat based breads (like roti, paratha, kulcha, puri and bhatoora). Goat and lamb meats are also common ingredients in many northern Indian. The samosa is a popular North Indian snack, and is now commonly found in other parts of India, Central Asia, North America, Britain, Africa and the Middle East.
East Indian cuisine
East Indian cuisine is famous for its desserts, it’s delights of posta (poppy seeds) and is ‘generally’ (a word im hesitant about but often forced to use) quite delicately spiced. Mustard paste, curd, nuts, poppy seed paste and cashew paste are very common and are preferably cooked in mustard oil. A regular meal consists of lentils, a primary non vegetarian side dish usually made of fish and a few other secondary side dishes made of vegetables.
West Indian cuisine
Western Indian cuisine has three major regions: Maharashtrian, Goan and Gujarati. Maharashtrian cuisine has mainly two sections defined by the geographical sections. The coastal regions, geographically similar to Goa depend more on rice, coconut, and fish. The hilly regions of the Western Ghats and Deccan plateau regions use groundnut in place of coconut and depend more on jowar (sorghum) and bajra (millet) as staples. Goan cuisine is influenced by the Portuguese colonization of Goa. Use of Kokum, triphala is a unique feature of Goan and Konkani cuisine. Gujarati cuisine is predominantly vegetarian. Many Gujarati dishes have a hint of sweetness due to use of sugar or brown sugar or gur (also called as jaggery). My hosts originate from Gurjarat so i’ve been treated to their amazing dishes that perfectly combine spicy and sweet (i can handle the spiciness but and working on the sweet!)
South Indian cuisine
South Indian cuisine is distinguished by a greater emphasis on rice as the staple grain, the ubiquity of sambar and rasam (a dish in liquid form prepared with herbs and/or spices, tamarind paste, turmeric and/or tomato and/or dhaal, also called chaaru/saaru and rasam), a variety of pickles, and the liberal use of coconut and particularly coconut oil and curry leaves
Indians have also found numerous ingenious ways to spice up popular western foods. I’ve already had Indian Chinese,
and am looking forward to Indian kebabs! And on a note to sign off with, CHAI! Authentically made with the families special Masala mix i’m absolutely addicted to it and have it atleast a few times a day if possible!