Love Goan food? This exhibition takes a fascinating behind-the-scenes look

The exhibition ‘Celebrating Goan Food’ by Berlin-based photographer and former scientist, Dr Marylou Zuzarte, is a celebration of Goan culinary techniques
A typical traditional Goan meal
A typical traditional Goan mealGomantak Times

If one has to define an activity that uses all our five senses, it would definitely be ‘cooking’. Most of us may look at it as an everyday chore, but it is very much a part and parcel of our lives, our survival, and thus an important task. But, we still do not celebrate those hidden hands behind this job of cooking, which many women do every single day, twice or even thrice a day.  

Celebrating such women, their cooking techniques and cuisine is a photography exhibition titled, ‘Celebrating Goan Food’, by Berlin-based photographer and former scientist, Dr Marylou Zuzarte, at the Saligao Institute, Saligao. The exhibition is open till January 3, 2023.

The flavour of Goan food lies has a lot to do with the stone
The flavour of Goan food lies has a lot to do with the stone Picture courtesy: Marylou Zuzarte

Marylou, who was born to Goan parents and raised in East Africa, started this documentation process in the year 2016, in order to search for her Goan identity and roots and also to know more about the Goan diaspora by interacting with the locals, especially women.

Initially, she didn’t get much of a response from the people, although they were always welcoming and offered Marylou tea and snacks, and that in a way, became a medium to start the conversation.

“During my conversations, I realised that when I started asking about the food, the women started talking very proudly about it. So then, I told them that I would like to document and interview them when they are cooking and doing their daily chores,” she explains.

A typical traditional Goan meal
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Marylou’s first visit was during the Christmas season and thus got a chance to understand various dishes made during this time. She also made it clear that she was not documenting the recipes, but the women behind the cuisine as she was interested in knowing their stories, where they came from, their position in the family, etc.

Marylou, who has mainly documented Goan Catholic women, was pleasantly surprised with the hospitality. “I was surprised with the willingness to share, and their hospitality. They are also very proud of their cuisine,” says she.

Grating coconut using a traditional Goan coconut scraper
Grating coconut using a traditional Goan coconut scraper Picture courtesy: Marylou Zuzarte

She also observed that these women were confident and were in total control of the situation in their kitchen rather than the outside space. She also states that, “I felt these women were strong, they had position and respect in the family. Men would sit quietly, and sometimes men were not even around.”

For Marylou, these interactions also helped her to find new ties and re-kindle old ones.

A typical traditional Goan meal
Recipe: Easy traditional Goan Christmas Cocada

She explains this with an example of a lady called Petu, from Cuncolim.

“I met Petu when she was busy making bibique (bebinca). During the interactions, she told me that her maiden name was Coutinho and her family came from Zanzibar. I happened to narrate this to my aunt, who actually knew her and her family!”

A typical traditional Goan meal
Explore Goan food culture at this photo exhibition

During this project, she also encountered rituals and ceremonies surrounding the cuisine. She experienced this first-hand during a wedding in the village of Bogmalo. Here, she met women who were busy cooking for three days for the wedding.

She explains, “I attended and documented the ross ceremony and also the wedding. These women were just amazing, who explained the rituals and cuisine to me while doing their work. Also, I discovered that the ross ceremony was so symbolic – when you pour coconut milk on the bride and groom, it is like washing your life and starting something new. I included this ceremony for my daughter’s wedding in Canada.”

A typical traditional Goan meal
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Marylou further explained the consoada, or kuswar, tradition – a platter of sweets and savouries which is distributed to friends and neighbours on the eve, or on the day, of Christmas. “I find this tradition very peaceful as it speaks about harmony,” says Marylou who started this tradition at Christmas time in Germany.

Marylou’s upbringing involved a mixed kitchen of African, Goan and British influences. But, she always longed for a true Goan fish curry. So, during this process, she made a point to learn more about it. She never asked for the recipe, but she tried cooking her own version based on the various fish curries she tasted during this project.

For Marylou, this project is still incomplete. She is now planning to document Goan Hindu kitchens and also publish a photo book based on this project.

On a concluding note, when asked how she looks at Goan women now, she shares, “I have gained lot of respect about them. They are much more confident when dealing with people. Also, I don’t think they are exploited, but are full of dignity and pride and respect.”

‘Celebrating Goan Food’, by Berlin-based photographer and former scientist, Dr Marylou Zuzarte, is currently on show at the Saligao Institute, Saligao, and will remain open till  January 3, 2023


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