One of the nicest thing about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.
– Luciano Pavarotti – Lewis Grizzard
Food is very personal. We know that.
What we often don’t realize is that food is also more than personal.
It is also about culture, and most importantly, about biodiversity.We often do not think about how flora and fauna around us make up our culture. Each region in India , indeed the world , is diverse in its food habits. It has its own recipes; it cooks with different ingredients and it eats differently.
And the mere thought of this wonderful blend takes me back to Kumaon. Tucked away in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand stands a 100 year old colonial cottage which is grand yet steeped in simplicity.
Set in the middle of majestic mountains surrounded by fragrant rhododendron, oak, and pine forests, the whiff of the past lingers in each and every corner of Jilling Terraces, from the warm fireplaces to the rooms inspired by the endemic trees of the region.
Here the food has a touch of colonial ceremony: tea served in a pot with an embroidered tea coaster and three-course meals even for vegetarians like me.
Step into their kitchen and you will find the air filled with pleasant aromas. There is likely to be occasional crackle of masalas or a little clang of metal utensils as Basant Bhaiya with the help of other cooks prepare mouth-watering Kumaoni delicacies for the mealtime bonhomie of the guests. People in Kumaon, love their lentils and beans – be it the urad dal ( the black gram ) or the locally grown bhatt ( soybean). Their bulk hours are spent in relishing a spread and planning the next one.”
The best past about the wholesome Kumaoni preparations is that they are fresh and feature local produce. Nature is a part of their lives ; it makes the connection between what they eat and why they eat it, then they can also safeguard their resources for tomorrow.
Its difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
– Lewis Grizzard
The charm of Kumaoni cuisine is not the obvious kind. Its beauty is in the sounds and tastes and in the way it makes you feel. Breakfasts for instance includes piping hot stuffed paranthas glazed with a cube of butter and teamed with a bowl of curd, fresh rhododendron juice and pudina chutney. As the morsels dipped in pudina chutney will disappear into your mouth, you will find yourself praising the cooks for satiating your hunger. The Rhododendron juice is sweet in taste and have medicinal properties. They contain ursolic acid and quercitrin, which have anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
The Kumaoni kitchen also treats you with hearty meals and memorable dishes like crispy okra, bhatt ki dal, baigan ka bharta, mix veg, buransh juice, and gahat ki dal, a local Kumaoni lentil stew.
As evening descends upon Jilling, you can enjoy cups of delicious ginger chai to defrost your bones as you savor the pervasive silence by the fireplace.
” There is no sincerer love than the love for food. “
– George Bernard Shaw