Food - yum!

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November 22nd 2007
Published: November 22nd 2007
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Keeping up with things in a diary fashion just isn't going to happen, and frankly, neither are photos. I managed yesterday courtesy of a bored young man at the Cyber Cafe at the Station, but my CDs are back at the hotel, awaiting my Great Overnight Journey from Mysore to Thanjavur. It's some 1100 km, and 16 hours. I declined to slum it, and have I hope a decent sleeper (sadly, I forgot to ask for a women only compartment and Jobsworth at the Station wouldn't change it). Since I'm an OAP, my fare for all this is.....6 quid. If I'd been better advised by the travel agent, might have lashed out and gone first class.

So food, eh? That's pretty central to things and gosh, has it's been wonderful. I've gone native, especially where breakfasts are concerned. Steaming pilesof idli - soft rice cakes, with appetising dipping sauces, roti and puri with ditto and tasty coconut chutney. Great bowls of melon, pineapple and bananas, the tiny local sweet kind.

While on my Organic Adventure, we dined on cooked meals 3 times a day- tasty organic vegetable curries, thin and spicy sambals, red rice, twice-cooked Keralan rice, sour dough roti, puris. At Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, we also got tea at 5.00 p.m. For 'tea' read massive dripping chunks of water melon, local green but sweet oranges, and something appetising like Bombay type mix.

A memorable meal out of all this, then? Well, what about a picnic on the River Cauvery? Starting from Syujata's summer house, after spiced tea in her garden, filled with coffee plants, hibiscus, pepper, poinsettia, we strolled down through the rice paddies, the young plants a citric vibrant green at the moment, to the river which was a scene out of every tropical travel doc. you've ever seen. Tall palm trees, knotted tree roots, and islands dotted about through the fast flowing and muddy waters of the Cauvery.

With some difficulty, we waded through the water to one of the larger islands, and then changed into our cozzies and swam. It was muddy but otherwise clean. There was quite a current, but staying close to the edges was OK. The stronger swimmers made it to the opposite bank, but I wasn't up to it.

The picnic was something special. Staff from the house came clanking down the hillside with great metal cannisters full of food, plates and napkins and laid out a feast. Rice, sambal, a wonderful bitter curry made out of some dark green tree leaf also used to dose children who have worms, a sour and bitter dark red chutney, curds, and a gorgeous buttered cabbage curry.

After that there was nothing to do but paddle and swim again , go hunting for the little jumping frogs who populate the shallow puddles at the water's edge, and generally chill.

Now my fellow organic adventurers have gone, I'm left to fend for myslf. Simple here. Look where all the local office and other workers are - likely to be formica covered tables and pretty basic. That way, you may end up, as I did yesterday, with a 'small' veg. thali of several different curries and a great bowl of rice, served on a banana leaf. A guy did the rounds with big cannisters of 'seconds' topping up the big portions we already had. I declined sugar on my yoghourt, but my table mates didn't, and sugar equal to the amount of yoghourt was spooned into their bowls. Only one poor meal so far. That'll teach me to rely on the Lonely Planet (sorry Lonely Planet, you're very useful really!

I case you think I'm irredeemably up beat, I think I'll do my next posting on shopping, which is getting me down.


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