daytripping around Kochi in India

Our new driver, whose name I cannot remember, drives us into Kochi to take in the sights and sounds of both Jew Town (see Jew Town, May 3) and the Fisherman Village. Regardless of the date you see on the photo (we forgot to reset the camera from US to Indian time), the date is January 26, an official holiday in India (Republic Day), and we soon learn our driver has only the scantiest itinerary for us as he hadn’t been notified he was to be our driver for the next day. In spite of it, he had come through for us by meeting us at the train station the previous night even though it was near midnight. We suspected he might have been slightly peeved since he would have to miss any celebrations going on in his neighborhood. Just a thought. Right away we notice the plastic Mary on his dash and assume he’s Christian.

All day long we were treated to ML’s vocal rendition of an old country song I had managed to miss all these years, “Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes Long as I have my plastic Jesus . . . . ridin’ on the dash of my car!” (from the movie Cool Hand Luke). I don’t think she was being sacrilegious, I suspect we may have visited one too many church by that time. Either that, or we were beginning to feel the miles we were packing in–most of it on bumpy roads. A little humor in these situations never hurt!

This small bazaar and quiet street our driver has chosen to park on will lead us to Fisherman Village where the Chinese fishing nets are located. It looks much quieter and less crowded than any city we’ve been in so far. Neither do I recall even one beggar here.

There’s obviously an abundance of fresh green coconuts in the state of Kerala, where they’re used in Indian cuisine. The natural juice is considered a refreshing thirst quencher, usually served with a hole cut into the stem end with a straw sticking out. A seafood soup served inside half coconut shells is outstanding, and you get to eat part of the bowl (the coconut flesh) at the same time. Yummy.

What about this very unusual (at least to Americans) tree. If anyone knows what it’s called, would you please leave a comment?

Also, this other very unusual bush I saw in a local garden.  😉

Finally, here we are at Fisherman Village at Fort Kochi, where the men are hard at work. The fishing nets are believed to have been introduced by Chinese ruler Kublai Khan. They are supposedly the only nets of this kind found outside China, and many fishermen earn their living using these massive nets. They’re operated mechanically with rigs to hold horizontal nets of 20 meters (~65 ft) or more across and at least 10 meters high, with outstretched nets suspended  over the sea, and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.

The net is lowered into the water where it’s left for only a short time before it’s raised again using a pulley system. The catch, usually modest–a few fish and crustaceans–may be sold within minutes to passers by. I didn’t know at the time that you can take the catch a short distance to a street entrepreneur who will cook them for you, but I doubt the life-time vegetarians would have liked that very much.  (Not to worry, Ml and I would have our fresh catch a day or two later on the houseboat.)


One last shot of the Fisherman village, cruising along just beyond the fishing nets, was this barge with a load of rocks.

We’ll be taking a little cruise of our own in the next post, another highlight of the trip. Hope you’ll be able to join us.

colorful, spicy and healthful indian cooking

Over the years I have prepared Indian (or Indian-style) dishes, even developed a few of my own when I used to cook a lot. The past few years, I’ve been very reluctant and usually leave the Indian meals for Hubby to prepare. He does an admirable job, too, but I still have this innate desire to be able to whip up a fantastic Indian meal myself. I have a few good Indian cookbooks, and I’ve turned out some decent meals with the help of some of them, but what I’m missing in (most of) them, is technique. I didn’t grow up in India learning to cook at the knee of an Indian mother, so I’m short on technique as well as imagination.

So whenever a Wintersong reader (and blogger friend) left a comment suggesting some Indian recipes, I remembered a discovery I made months ago that renewed my hope in learning how to cook Indian dishes seat of the pants style, i.e., without recipes. I’m still working on it, and want to share my discovery with my readers. The video below is one of six of a series called Healthful Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In it, Alamelu will show you how to prepare a typical Indian vegetarian meal of Lemon Rice, Eggplant Masala, and Lima Bean Poriyal. She also takes you shopping in an Indian grocery store to explain how different rices taste.

Here’s my tip of the day for you: don’t worry about trying to jot down the ingredients while you watch. At the end of each dish preparation, the ingredients are listed. Just pause the video and copy them down so you’ll be able to actually read it when you’re ready to try them yourself. Also, I’ve made a list of the other five episodes that I consider eye candy for foodies. If you enjoy #101, you’ll probably want to see the others as well. They’re all on YouTube, and each contains nutritional information and tips in choosing ingredients, and runs about 27 minutes.

#102: features a Raita (Cucumber/Tomato/Yogurt Salad), Garlic & Pepper Chicken, a colorful rice dish featuring vegetables.
#103: featuring Cauliflower Masala, Green Beans Poriyal, Black-eyed Peas Kulambu, plus a visit to a farmer’s market to choose vegetables.
#104: featuring Brussels Sprouts Kulambu, Roasted Potatoes, Turkey Podimas cooked with split peas and coconut, plus a tour of an Indian grocery to learn about spices used in Indian cooking.
#105: features Tuna Masala, a Carrot Sambhar, Chickpea & Mango Soondal, and tips of how to select the right kind of lentils at an Indian grocery.

Finally, I thought you might find this little-known fact–about me–a little interesting. It’s my Indian name. An Indian friend of ours since more than 40 years ago, Gangs, an Indian friend of ours at the time, decided I should have an Indian name. Since my real name was and is considered “old-fashioned” in the U.S., Gangs reasoned that I needed an “old-fashioned Indian” and came up with Alamelu. He claimed it was very old-fashioned. Years later, when Hubby and his three brothers were performing a ceremony of homage at the one-year anniversary of their father’s death, the Brahman priest asked for the names of the son’s wives. When it came time to provide mine, they were at a loss as how to translate Alice into Tamil, so Alamelu was substituted. Thus, my (unofficial) Indian name has been Alamelu for about 45 years. Now you understand how I was attracted to this video when it first came to my attention. Since the video Alamelu is actually younger than me, I surmise the name has enjoyed a resurgence as India, just as mine has (in various spellings) in this country.