"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)


Beyond The Temple Walls, Part 1: Who Will buy?


Just beyond the walls of any major temple an unofficial itinerant market invariably appears;
the Hindu equivalent of a Cathedral gift shop and tea-room.



Picture of a flute seller taken outside the Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

A Weekend Break: Today’s Special

Sun-dried seafood, with a lemon drizzle dressing on the side..


Picture taken in one of Kannur’s street markets

Wandering Westward: Amongst The Amish


Picture taken whilst we ate lunch in Eastern Market, Capitol Hill, Washington DC.

Aspiring To Altitude: Base-Camp Logistics

Chandni Chowk market, Delhi.


Making way for the vegetable express..

Unlike heaven, curry sometimes cannot wait..

Pictures taken in Bazaar Road, Mattancherry.

Temple Traders


Finally we had arrived in Hampi,
The primary goal of our travels. 


Hampi is a city long deserted.
All that remains are the ancient stone temples and palaces: some remarkably intact; others in various degrees of dilapidation.
But the vast site provides excellent opportunities for those wishing to make money,
From both tourists and pilgrims.


Family businesses


And children’s market stalls:




Young men


And old men:


All ply their trades

In an exotic world where religious piety and financial profit seem reluctant to part.


Ginger Snaps

A Trip To Fort Cochin’s Ginger Market

Yesterday we visited Fort Cochin’s ginger market, tucked away in the back-streets of Mattancherry .

Entering through an arched alleyway,

You arrive in the large open courtyard, which is given over to thousands of drying ginger roots.

As the sun moves across the sky, and the shadows from adjacent buildings shift around the yard, the colours of the ginger fades from browns to greys.

In the warehouses which surround the courtyard, women shake the now-dry ginger and sieve it,

So that the rooms are filled with ginger dust, which tickles your throat and produces a momentary, dry cough.

Surprisingly, the smell of ginger is not overpowering but subtle.

The ginger is then sacked and weighed, ready for dispatch

To the domestic and international markets.


“Money cant buy you love, but it can get you some really good chocolate ginger biscuits.”   Dylan Moran


History of Ginger*

Ginger has a long history. It was grown originally in Asia probably about 5000 years ago, where it was used in food and also in medicine. In China, Shang dynasty rulers from before the 8th century BC had identified Sichuan as the site where the finest ginger was grown and Marco Polo on his travels reported seeing vast plantations of it growing in Cathay, as he called it.

By the first century AD it had been brought to the Mediterranean by traders and by the Middle Ages, ginger was highly valued, one pound of ginger buying a live sheep. In the sixteenth century, Henry VIII was recommending its use as a remedy for the plague while his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man. The Spaniards took ginger with them to Mexico and the West Indies where it flourished, especially in Jamaica. In the nineteenth century, ginger ale was first made by adding powdered ginger to beer and stirring the mixture with a hot poker.

* Reproduced from Ann Burnett’s article on Ginger on Suite101.com



The Pleasures Of Food Shopping

I love Kerala food.

This is probably just as well. Outside of the tourist restaurants, there is little else to eat.

Increasing age brings a somewhat jaded palate. Kerala cuisine, with its abundant use of local produce such as cardamom, black peppers, ginger, garlic and coconut, is an excellent restorative to the fading sense of taste. Dalila, my cook, can always tempt me with her amazing dishes.

But there are two things I miss:


and European cheeses.

Both have fiercely strong tastes. They are almost pungent.

Here bacon is unheard of.

The locally available cheese is processed and bland, having a slightly plastic taste and consistency.


Last week I came across an article in The Hindu, one of India’s national English language newspapers.

It featured “Gourmet House”, a local shop specialising in imported foods.

They sell European cheeses.


This morning saw me riding pillion on a friends motorbike, across to the mainland. I carried a small back-pack.

Stepping into Gourmet House, I felt like a child walking into in a toy-shop at Christmas.

Here was everything I had missed and many items I hadn’t even dreamt of missing.

Half an hour and Rs. 2,250 ( £30 or $50) later, I emerged.

At home I unpacked my luxuries:

Fine blackcurrant jam, Scottish marmalade, sliced pepperoni, Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, pickled gherkins, back bacon,

and cheese.

Mature English cheddar, Red Leicester, French Camembert and Danish Blue.

Combining these culinary treasures with the excellent local bread I have recently sourced, my future lunchtime snacks may be more gourmand than gourmet.


With thanks to John, my dear brother-in-law, for pointing me to this clip.

(The cartoon is taken from “The New Yorker”)


Coffee Morning

Yesterday I walked through Mattancherry, to buy coffee:















The simplest tasks are touched by moments of magic.


For Body and Soul

A little local shopping was required yesterday.

In Mattancherry,

An old part of Cochin,

Largely unvisited by tourists and Europeans.

In a maze of narrow streets and alleyways, small shops and godowns, offices and gated passages, compete to supply most of life’s needs.

A lively fruit and vegetable market

Is serviced by trucks from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

Shops can run on low stocks.

Others are full.

Clothes shops

Stand opposite offices.

Brightly coloured, plastic utensils are displayed

Beside quiet temple gateways.

Gates which in Kerala, are open only to Hindus.