Friday, 19 November 2010

Contrasting food

Today involved a long walk to Mattancherry - it's only about 1.5 miles so should be easy, but for some reason we go the long way round. In the midday heat. And we end up walking for around 2 hours.

I end up scarlet-faced, hot, sticky, hungry, tired and a bit grumpy. Eventually we reach the Dutch palace and S wanders off to find food. I wait for him. Outside a cafe! When he returns with the news that there is nothing up ahead I point out the cafe and we go in. We are both quite surprised at the lack of places to go to so close to a tourist attraction.

Inside is quite grubby with the menu written on the wall in Malayalam, no English translation. The man comes over, I enquire about thali. "no thali, dosa" he replies. So we order 2 masala dosa and some water.

The food is good - hot and fresh - the masala is lightly spiced, the chutney and sambar equally so. This is because it is Brahmin, and they don't use spices much. The dosa is crisp and floppy at the same time and very good.

The chap comes back and I have tea. We do everything right vis the right hand thing and he changes from being cursory to becoming very friendly and chatty. He presses our hands warmly when we leave.

In all it costs 70rs for everything. Or £1. Amazing!

The palace is lovely - carved ceilings, a room of wall paintings of Vishnu and Shiva and some parts of the Maharabhata.

Then some objects and costumes, palanquins and paintings. The wall displays are really informative, well translated and include many early photographs. It's a really good exhibition.

Afterwards we go out through a different gate and are plunged into stalls and shops and tuk-tuks. We obviously went in the back way!

This area is called Jew Town. What with that, and the ancient Hindu four legged cross also known as a swastika, a fluffy liberal can feel a bit challenged...

The shops purport to sell antiques, some is genuine, much isn't. But one warehouse has some huge stuff for sale - garden pavilions & fountains - and then taschen photo books and the ubiquitous papier mâché.

We wander the streets past spice merchants with rooms full of hessian sacks and wafting spicy smells, and some gorgeous architecture.

Then we get a tuk tuk back and as usual he insists on taking us to shops. We tell him we don't want to and he says no need to buy just look, but the pressure is quite high and the shops do have some pretty things. I resist - it's not too hard! Yes, even I am tired of shopping. The aircon is nice though!

We have a short rest and then go to see a Kathakali demonstration. It starts with watching the make-up - in some cases very detailed and with paper cut outs added on with rice paste.

Then one of the musicians starts to prepare the stage with flowers and rice powder patterns made with a shaker. He begins to explain and we get a demo of eye movements and mudras (hand movements).

The performance extract lasts about an hour and is very intricate. It takes 6 years to learn we are told. The costumes are amazing, highly stylised and detailed with great head-dresses.

Not S's thing at all but he indulges me. I think it's fascinating.

Then dinner at a place recommended by book and people. The Malabar Junction is frighteningly chic - stiff white linen, lots of waiters and expensive. By Indian standards anyway. We are almost the youngest people there! There is one veg option - and in true menu-speak it is a trio of curries! I choose lemongrass skewered tiger prawns. It's beautifully presented but nothing I couldn't do myself and what I expect from a place like this is food I couldn't do at home. And it is oddly a little bland. And there isn't much of it either.

So, it would appear that the old rich (the majority of clientele) are neither vegetarian nor in need of much food.

I don't even think I chose wrong, at a place like there shouldn't be a duff choice.

Nice, but not as tasty as the food we've had in other places, and by no means the taste experience we've been led to expect. And at 1183rs the most expensive thing we've eaten so far. Perhaps for some people it's all about the napery...

And so home to bed.

Onwards to the coast


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