NAMASKARAM. Welcome to my blog – a blog primarily written for our many friends abroad, old and new, who are generally interested in our part of the world and our way of life, and also for Malayalees who live and work abroad, but like “to stay in touch”. In short, I like to do my personal bid to promote this LAND OF SPICES – KERALA. This is also a blog which talks about food (oh no! I hear you groan – not another one)…
Food from India and particularly from Kerala – which is now my new home and has become my life for the past decade…
Food from the country of my birth – Germany and in fact food from around the globe, mainly countries I actually have lived in (like Trinidad & Tobago, Lebanon, Italy, England, etc.) and from countries I have visited, most of them over and over again (like Turkey, Spain, Thailand, France, Singapore, etc.).
The majority of the recipes were given to me by family, friends, Chefs and Hostesses of many private houses, whom I cajoled and even begged at times to share with me their secret of a particularly delicious dish. As time goes by I intend to write about my visits to certain restaurants and hotels, concentrating on my new world in the hope that any visitors will like my personal table.
However, I try not to write about food alone – I hope to include fashion, events, exhibitions and many other things, with my trusted Nikon camera as my ‘constant companion’, which just might interest some of you and hopefully will bring you back to my pages over and over again and, in time, to make me your friend.
And so what better time to start this blog now with one of the most important and auspicious festivals in the Kerala Calendar – ONAM.
O N A M
Life becomes a festival when gaiety and culture blend.
Onam delivers the message of both. – Anonymous
ONAM – will be once again celebrated with great joy by every Malayalee, wherever they are in the world. It is the equivalent of our Harvest Festival and marks the homecoming of the mythical Asura King of ancient Kerala, the legendary King Mahabali. On Thiruvonam (the main Onam day, which falls this year on 29th of August), King Mahabali is believed to re-visit every Malayali’s home and meet his people.
Most houses and offices will have their “Pookalam” (Flower carpet), depicting an intricate colourful design. Days before the festival season begins certain streets and markets are lined with flower sellers and we choose the colours and buy the blossoms by weight. Each family will have their own design and competitions are being held in most of the offices and Government institutions for the best and most intricate Pookalam. The making of a Pookalam is often accompanied with the joyful singing of traditional songs and dances (and no, sadly I do not speak Malayalam – so therefore I can only hum along with certain tunes).
Like at Christmas, when there are plenty of a “Father Christmas” around, during Onam most 4* and 5* Hotels, Malls, large and small shops have their own “King Mahabali” to attract and greet customers. Here in Cochin, Sebastian, the splendid doorman of the famous “Grand Hotel” on MG Road is without doubt the most photographed “King Mahabali”. I too, of course, joined the queue of people who came to take his picture prior to their feast of the “Onam Sadya” and hear him greet every guest with his sonoric voice “Namaskaram/Namaste” and to select the traditional offering of sweets from his basket – much fun especially for the Little Ones!
The feast, the traditional meal enjoyed by nearly everybody on Thiruvonam is known as “Onam Sadya” and I, like so many of the guests visiting this famous Hotel, will have previously ordered my “Onam Sadya” complete with traditional Kerala plates (to you known as banana leaves) to take back home with me. JS, my husband and I will have an enjoyable celebration of this all so important festival in Kerala’s calendar.
By the way, Onam is also the time when many of the girls and ladies like do wear their special Saree, unique to our State – known as the Kerala Saree (handloom material with gold designs and border) and their hair is adorned with sweet smelling Jasmine blooms. A wonderful site to be seen and the heady scent of all those Jasmine blossoms can leave you slightly dizzy.
So therefore let me sign off for today with a warm NAMASKARAM – NAMASTE to all of you Malayalees, from our house to yours
Text and all photos: © Manningtree Archive