Did you know, that the folles – steamed cones of rice flour paste, spread on a jackfruit leaf, filled with coconut and black jaggery – are similar to gatti (steamed rice dumplings made using turmeric leaves with brown paste, grated coconut and jaggery) from Mangalore and there is a similar version found in the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin kitchens from Udupi, called patoli, which are similar to Goan patoleos?
How did we have all these similarities brought into our kitchens? The question did not permit author and food chronicler, Odette Mascarenhas, to rest, and she recently released her new book – The Culinary Odyssey of Goa – which delves deep into how our grandmothers got these recipes?
WHEN QUESTIONS DON’T LET US SLEEP
Just like there are parallels in sweets, there are similarities when it comes to the food we eat – from starters to breakfast to soups to mains and more. “The spiced food and the unique desserts prepared in the kitchens were grandmothers’ recipes that were handed down over generations. But where did these dishes come from – was my question.
Take the home-styled curry – the hooman (Gaud Saraswat Brahmin), kadi (Hindu and Muslim), or the kodi (Christian) the daily fish curry, each with a different colour, texture and even flavour, she narrates.
"Could culinary influences from different kitchens over the years have some impact on these recipes? Did lifestyles change over the centuries? Did these recipes originate in this region or were they brought into these kitchens? I had to find these answers, and my journey began,” says Odette.
THE SEVEN-YEAR LONG JOURNEY
The book took Odette seven years of research, meeting people from different communities for the research and documentation. “It all started when I went to a cultural exhibition at a museum in Greece and I was shocked to see the grinding stones (the year 2416 BCE) so similar to the fator found in our homes."
Then there were the carved lions on their lintels which are adorned on the gates of many Portuguese-styled homes in Goa. This was one of the many things that led to the journey of this book.
"Today what has been left behind are just memories, stories, perhaps a homogenised culture with different traditions. And hence it is a gamut of ‘once upon a time’ reflection that comes into play in this book,” says Odette, who has published 12 books, including the Alfie Alphonso series for kids, The Culinary Heritage of Goa and many others.
She adds, “This book is not based on historical research or references. Most of the content is fragments and stories from the past with hypotheses, probabilities and possibilities that are based on the facts that actually happen today. During my research, I realised that spiritual beliefs played an important role in the food that is prepared in these kitchens.”
Is it migration over centuries which brought in new recipes which families now perceive to be ‘family preparations’? She says, “This question led me to interact with families from Pernem, Ponda, Sattari, Bardez, Dharbandora, Quepem, Salcette, Canacona and the islands of Divar and St Estavam, just to realise that though many recipes in this region show common ingredients but each kitchen will have an interesting tweak. My search moved towards Udupi and Mangalore where migration probably occurred.”
There are similar recipes like the nimbuye adgai (lime pickle from the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin kitchen) from Udupi and the lime pickle found in Christian homes in Mangalore. The doce de grao which is found in Goa and the alva de grao available in East Indian homes has similarities except a few ingredients like chopped almonds and rose water mixture.
The 250-page book researches into stories, poems and recipes of culinary heritage and from where our grandmother got these recipes.
The book can be picked up from Amazon
The Culinary Odyssey Of Goa