Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coconuts and Banana Leaves

It's still snowing in Seattle. At this rate, there's no doubt we will have a white Christmas. The lack of snow plowing equipment in combination with hilly roads and streets means most people are snowbound. It is really quite beautiful. I'm grateful that I'm a freelance writer and work from home. For me, the weather is no problem.

However, if I were in Kerala right now, it would be almost 90 degrees with 94 percent humidity. Yum. Southern India is a popular vacation spot during the holidays—this I know because the rates at all of the resorts and hotels are hiked up at this time. But, the end of September was a great time to visit. Hotel rates were still low and is wasn't that hot. Rates go up October 1. Better to go at the end of September—how much hotter can it be a week later?

In this chilly Seattle weather, I've been craving the food of Southern India. It's divine. One day, I had the quintessential lunch on a banana leaf in the jungle. A big pile of puffy rice was surrounded by several fascinating little piles of food—tangy curries, fresh coconut chutneys, super tasty and super salty little fish, even saltier pickles, and vegetables drowned in a variety of delicious spiced sauces. As a petite eater I didn't think I would finish this mountain of food, but I had no problem at all. I ate every bit of it the traditional style—shoveling it into my mouth with my fingers.

The coconut curries were especially flavorful. In Kerala there are coconut trees and groves everywhere you look. The trees have multiple uses— trunks are used for beams, fronds are used for thatching houses and baskets, coconut husks are used to weave into mats and ropes, coconut shells are used for fuel. They even fill old-fashioned irons with fiery shells to iron clothes. I saw truck beds filled to the brim with husks, presumably to be turned into fuel or coir for mats.

At our resort, my roommate continually asked for fresh coconut water. Oddly enough, it wasn't available. "What, with all these coconut trees?" she asked. We were told the man who delivered the coconuts was sick. While this is understandable, I was dumbfounded that someone else couldn't pick some coconuts and deliver them. This is such an Indian thing. Finally, on our last morning the staff brought out fresh coconuts with straws and fancy little umbrellas. Apparently the coconut man had recovered. It was a refreshing treat before leaving Kerala.

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