Welcome to my travelogue and culinary blog: Do you have a cow?
At the end of 2008 I traveled with some friends to three of the Northeastern States of India: Assam, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. At the rest stops interspersing the drives through undulating lowland tea country and tribal hill tracts, our driver Bipul and I usually had a conversation going about this and that – are you from a village or a city? do you eat veg or non-veg? what is the price of rice/milk/butter nowadays? do your neighbors come out at night to sit around the bonfire with you? On around day 10 or so, after visiting a number of tribal villages on Majuli Island in the Brahmaputra river (villages of weavers, potters, and mask-makers), he asked me if I had a cow.
Where did I get milk?
From the supermarket.
How did I separate freshly harvested rice grain from the shaft if I didn’t have a cow to walk in circles over it in my courtyard?
I buy my rice in the supermarket in 5 kg sealed plastic bags.
I thought you came from a village?
(Note to the village of Chatham: we may need to rethink the signs)
Bipul’s question about the cow made me think a lot about the origins of my food. He also gave me a great ice-breaker. I tried out the question a few weeks later on my tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap and quickly got to know more about his family structure.
After many years of diverse travel, I’ve become more interested in the commonalities across cultures rather than the perceived differences. Every culture loves its food! I visit markets, poke my head into kitchens and street stalls, find a new vegetable and ask different people how they like to prepare it. I find that great pleasure often resides in the simplest of dishes, sometimes found in unexpected places or circumstances. I’d like to share my (ongoing) travel and culinary stories, recipes, and ruminations on food here with you.
At the same time, I’m trying to figure out where I could house a cow…