Lucknow Food

One of the stories you’ll read in every account of Lucknow of yore, is the one where its best known nawab, Asaf-ud-Daula, ordered the construction of the city’s most prominent edifice – the Bara Imambara. There was a famine in 1784 and the people of Lucknow faced the danger of starvation. The tens of thousands…

Life on a Finnish Island

There we were, the three of us: Vera, her daughter and I. The sauna was as unlike anything that you’ll find assembled in India: it looked rough and hand-made, and would have looked completely out of place in a spa at a five star hotel anywhere in our country. It was ten metres from the…

Delhi’s Dining Scene

Delhi is, according to those who track such matters, the restaurant capital of the country. There is plenty of choice in every cuisine, including such seemingly obscure ones like Nepalese and Naga. Not only are there restaurants serving Japanese food, there are Japanese nationals who make and sell futomaki rolls and Japanese-style sweets out of…

Food and War in Sri Lanka

The best way of starting a war in Sri Lanka, is to ask a group of housewives the exact recipe of curry powder. It’s something that every kitchen on the island contains, because it goes into a wide variety of dishes. But, as I found out soon enough, it’s akin to asking a bunch of…

Smell the Coffee

What does the land of Reggae have to do with a fine cup of coffee? For that matter, how does a weasel-like mammal improve the flavour of coffee? Or is it the musty winds of the south-western monsoon that I’m thinking of? The coffee bean grows in many countries – in fact, ever since a…

The Mystique of Mangoes

On my first visit to the Louvre in Paris, I was determined to look at the Mona Lisa in its original form. I was unprepared for the crowds in the Italian Art section of the museum, which were far greater than in any other part of the Louvre. After attaching myself to the longest line…

On a coffee estate in Coorg

The lunch that was hosted by Sagar and Kavita Muthappa at their well-appointed estate bungalow served as a house-warming for the Muthappa’s family and friends. Coorgs or Kodavas (“But please don’t go calling us Coorgis!” Sagar Muthappa warns me, mock-threateningly) are a close-knit community, with members of each extended family thinking up excuses for periodic…

Dying cuisines: Kashmir’s dried vegetables

Mughlai food (the real McCoy that is, not the upstart version you get in restaurants) started its decline because of the richness of its ingredients and the intricacy of the preparations. Bengali widows’ food is on its way out because society is becoming less and less traditional. Many of India’s micro-cuisines are in danger of…

Seafood

Understanding the top segment of the seafood market Farmed versus natural: there’s no doubt about it, wild seafood is in another class altogether. Wild fish (and other creatures of the deep) have specific habitats and feeding patterns. Some tuna, for instance, swim for hundreds of miles during their lifetime, often against the current. Not a…

With love, for Kashmir

I was delighted when a shopkeeper in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul called me Hema Malini. Not, I hasten to add, because I am a fan of that actress, nor indeed because I have any pretensions of looking like a star, but because it was one more point to chalk up on my ‘Kashmir’ board.…