Cooking, elevated to the status of a real art being highly prolific is a quite recent phenomenon yet nonetheless very fashionable.
Of course, major institutions of the hotel industry have always existed, in Europe particularly, turning cooking and catering into a really demanding discipline, ruled by specific codes, as for any form of art... but here it is more like a new infatuation that aims at putting a rich, varied and healthy food in the plate of Mr. and Mrs Nobody. We definitely witness a whole new playing field in this area, with great starred chefs animating culinary TV shows for the general public, but also with the emergence of culinary bloggers who use the magic of the Internet and social networks to express their imagination. This makes the subject even more popular, as shown by the myriad of blogs, facebook pages, and twitter accounts dealing with food that now exist.
In India, food has always taken a key stage in the whole population's life. First of all, it is a way to look after the family for the mother, and it is also a major element of socialization: if you travel by train on a long distance, you can notice that everybody gather to share some food, eat together and have a chat on this occasion. It is therefore a country where the trend is not left behind, all the more since the tradition has always been for the mother to cook the meal from scratch, using fresh products!
And Pondicherry is no exception... As reflected in Deepa and Pallavi's culinary blogs, both of them settled in Pondicherry, and successfully combining modernity and tradition in their cooking style. The culinary landscape of Pondicherry is therefore highly colourful and tasty, innovative and eclectic, but still cleverly retaining the traces of tradition. Dealing with this subject, we will have to say a word about one of the major caracteristics of Indian culinary habits: vegetarianism; then we will get into the details of this two passionate boggers' food and personalities!
Anyone who has travelled to India may have wondered why so many restaurants are labelled as "Pure Veg" (ie :100% vegetarian).
Let's talk about religion... No doubt Hinduism is about spirituality and has its own beliefs like any other religion, but more than that, it is an area instilling every aspect of Indians' daily life! Food habits are therefore in agreement with these principles and more particularly the one of Ahimsâ, which advocates non-violence and the respect of any form of life; since we may all have embodied the animal form during our multiple lives and the cycles of reincarnation, we shall not eat animal products, in order to remain "pure" and maybe access to supreme freedom, "Moksha". So vegetarian cooking can be roughly defined as one excluding any type of meat and fish. Regarding South India, its climate offers a wide range of fruits and vegetables varieties, which also foster such type of meatless/fishless food; let us remind that not all Hindu people are vegetarians!
However, this is a principle that Pallavi Gupta, creator of Veggie Zest, highlights in her presentation...
When I visited Veggie Zest, a food blog/website created by Pallavi Gupta, not only did the global aesthetic lay out appeared to me as mouth-watering, but also the vegetarian perspective she chose to adopt in her cooking style sticked in my mind. Although she hasn't always been a vegetarian, she herself asserts that her blog is an attempt to promote "vegetarian, veganism, and more generally healthy food habits". It is just as if her passion was serving her principles...Pallavi is committed to "inspiring people to try food that's not meat oriented and realize that it's great in flavor and is much better for them as well as for the environment". And Pallavi puts word into action... Indeed, she confesses that what she likes best is "to pick a classic meat dish and turn it into a vegetarian recipe. I find it challenging and exciting". A quite unusual blogger! The most representative example is indisputably her "patates au vin" recipe, replacing the French traditional "Coq au vin".
As I was explaining above, many blogs exist dealing with food, from different angles...
Pâtichéri is one of them, created by Deepa, who initially trained as an anthropologist and therefore has a more cultural eye on the subject; as she explains, "our food habits, what we think is healthy or not, has a cultural signification; on this basis, it is a tool of analysis that I often use to illustrate some concepts in anthropolgy, it is an easy point of access for my students to understand!".However, having a blog also allows her to have her own approach of what she calls "her personal interest", where the science of anthropology is governed by rigorous theories!
Deepa lived for some time in the USA, and came back to settle in Pondicherry 8 years ago; at that time, she used to bake a lot... for practical reasons: Auroville and Baker Street bakeries being quite expensive on the long term! Let alone big hotels where food contains artificial flavors... But committing to prepare your own pastries and food is sometimes easier said than done: "When I came back from the US, I realized I would never find some ingredients... like when I wanted to buy marshmallow! Thus, I had to find the process to make it myself, from scratch... I had never even wondered how to make it! And somehow, I could satisfy my desire to bake it all by myself, to know the whole process; actually, there are some very ordinary things that you can make at home very special; the relation to food is completely different when we cook it, instead of buying pre-prepared dishes to quickly heat up... There's a strong commitment to cook everything by yourself in India: going to the market and talking with the people who sell the ingredients is a way for them to remain close to their food; and even though traditions are changing, it is still ill- considered to buy your food outside". This leads us to evoke the different and very special relationships that food can create, that you can create through food... obviously related, in Deepa's case, to the blog format that she uses: "Thanks to my blog, I could make precious friendships, even with people I have never seen, like my friend from Nigeria! More generally, I could make friend with people all over the world and that is an aspect that I really like! Here I would like to cite my Nigerian friend: kitchenbutterfly.com, it is of the very best quality!".
In a word, most interesting & revealing interviews, most mouth-watering blogs... Either Pallavi's blog or Deepa's, who is, in addition to being a mother/ teacher at the university/ blogger in her spare time, a drawer for her blog!
Last Sunday, we suddenly felt like doing something during the afternoon.
The beach: too hot in this month of June! Sunday Market: just the same, let's wait until 6:00pm.
Going for a fresh juice in the city centre? Why not, but this won't fill a whole afternoon! Then what?
The Goubert Market is the largest covered market in Pondicherry. Extending over several streets, don't worry you'll probably get a bit lost in these little streets! The Goubert Market is an inescapable and very typical place of Pondicherry, located in the heart of the city.
As a very popular beverage, tea is available at every street corner in little stalls where it will be prepared before your eyes! Indian tea, known as "masala chai" is a black tea boiled with milk and spices (ginger, cumin, pepper, cardamom ...), "masala" meaning spice mix, and "chai" tea.
Come to relax in this peacefully botanical garden, in the heart of Pondicherry, and discover several unknow species. Ravaged by a hurricane in January 2012, the garden is being rehabilitated after two years of expectation. It just has been inaugurated in July 2015. The project plans new species and new original constructions.