It all began with the perfect avocado. One for each hand, plucked from a tree on a school biology walk one fresh-from-rain Pondicherry morning, by a boy who wanted to bring them home to his mother.
His mother was, admittedly, surprised. When the boy asked for gifts himself, it was always about gadgets or gears. His parents did not want him to grow up a Luddite, but it was a struggle to keep him away from the tablets and the phones and the screens that were like nodal points in their home. So when the boy came home with an avocado for each hand, his mother looked up, wondering if it was just that she’d been figured out. He had said it himself, once when they planned the outcomes of a reading contest, “I know what prizes Amma will ask for. She’ll ask for a meal or something, that’s all.” So she couldn’t help but wonder if that was all. read more…
Quite possibly because I’ve been on a 3-day training on marketing style persuasion techniques and the acronym “TG”–that’s Target group for y’all novices–is starting to sound like a word, the news that a hummus manufacturer was looking for sports fans caught my attention.
“Hummus is conquering America,” the Wall Street Journal announced some months ago–only three years after Fox News’ eyebrow-raising report that “There’s Hummus Among Us,” and a whole year after Australian Food news remarked on this growing trend. Late news or breaking, the inter-penetration of hummus into the American landscape of ethnic eating is irrefutable; the language of conquest and even suspicion, noteworthy. read more…
Right, I’ll admit it. Food categories in India can be just plain bewildering–and the unfathomable Indian “chutney” tops the list.
I have lived too long under the mistaken impression that my being (1) a native, and (2) an anthropologist–expert in deciphering the undecipherable, that I would be able to figure chutneys out. I’m now not too proud to admit defeat. This land and its incredible, cliched diversity of cuisines, terminologies, opinions, and disagreements swallows me whole.
This is the story–in four bumpy installments. Recipes arrive in the 5th.
It takes less than a day to find yourself again in Joburg, at once business traveler and ethnographer. The two roles sit uneasily beside each other, but never mind that for now. You are here. A hemisphere away, so it’s wintertime, and you know there will be other differences—cultural differences—which you must now get down to the business of tracking. But for now, here is an airport whose entrances and exits are suspiciously familiar, here is a taxi which meets you upon arrival, here are highways and traffic lights, malls, and a hotel whose staff speak in an accent you find alluring. They do not enunciate the sound of the letter “A” as “ah.” Instead, they speak the sound as they speak the letter. Ey-pple. Ey-rport. Welcome to South Ey-frica. It’s the only real clue that you are in a different country.
Forget the calendar that reminds you that it’s mid-April and tax time, US-returned soul you’re fated to remain, you will know it is time for Vishu or the vernal equinox by the following signs: rising heat, showering golden laburnum, falling neem flowers–and green mangoes. Those last tell you that the real mango season is coming sure as the sun always rises. There is little doubt that mangoes are royals, for carpets of diminutive little neem flowers shower down to welcome them, even as cascades of golden laburnum (cassia fistula, or what Ashram-associated folks will call imagination) spill down from the sky. Almost as though the intensity of the summer’s heat pours down in brilliant yellow, accompanied by a lighter sprinkling of white neem, all in anticipation of the imminent arrival of mango.
When precisely did it happen that Houston became this swanky hip restaurant town? One which no doubt shares a pretty decent chunk of the National Restaurant Association (that other NRA) prediction that the Texas restaurant industry will lead the country’s sales growth in 2013?
Little did I know that our last trip to Houston to retrieve Verne and restore our life of togetherness would also mark the beginning of a peripatetic life: first Peru, then the Galapagos; unexpectedly Joburg and Soweto, even more so Nelspruit, and just now an all-too-quick dash to Mumbai.