A light lunch.
Picture taken in my sister’s garden in Wiltshire, England
A vegetarian lunch palette in a Kerala roadside restaurant:
the fast-food equivalent of traditional sadya cooking.
Picture taken in a roadside restaurant, travelling between Cochin and Kottayam.
Arriving at our lunchtime restaurant, we thought this time there would be no puzzlement.
Experience had taught us the custom of being taken first to a bedroom.
But Ladakh still managed to surprise us:
We were welcomed by a Buddhist monk.
Quite what his role was, I never understood.
He appeared to do little other than sit at the reception desk, smiling in silence.
But, while maintaining that silence, somehow the monk summoned our hotel’s owner.
Again, we were shown first to a bedroom where, after a chance to wash and make ourselves comfortable, tea was served.
Feeling relaxed and refreshed, we wandered down to the dining room to take lunch.
Then sat outside for a few minutes, luxuriating in the gentle warmth of spring sunshine.
I am a man of variable mobility.
My lack of physical, or mental, exercise would challenge any personal trainer!
Aware of how little energy I expend, I try to control what I eat:
a difficult task when Dalila, my cook, spends several creative hours every morning in our kitchen; her production-line of tasty temptations.
Because of this, except when playing host, I neither take lunch, nor miss it.
But travelling makes me hungry: on holiday, everything and anything goes!
After our visit to Likir Monastery, thoughts of food began to float into my mind, though it was difficult to see where we would find it.
We appeared to be travelling through the proverbial middle of nowhere.
Norvo, our driver, knew better.
He left the main road and began following a narrow track up into an isolated mountain village.
The car stopped outside the gates of the smartest building around.
We were obviously expected.
The owner excitedly welcomed us then, rather disconcertingly, led the way upstairs to a dazzling and somewhat over-exotic double-bedroom.
Robin and I were not quite sure what to do.
Reasonably confident this was just a lunch-stop, and that a long drive was planned for the afternoon, we used the bathroom’s pristine facilities then sat and waited. Perhaps our meal was to be served on the small bedside tables?
After a few minutes, our beaming host reappeared and asked if we would like to come down.
He proudly ushered us into the very splendid dinning room pictured above.
There were no chairs. Instead, colourful mattresses, bolsters and cushions lay along three sides of the room.
The gorgeously enamelled table-tops were at knee-height.
Variable mobility or not, we would eat while seated only inches from the floor.
The meal was extremely generous and delicious. And, although being entirely meat-free, proved of great interest to the household kitten.
Having used the bedroom facilities once more, we thanked the owner and left.
At first sight, Karim’s is not so much a restaurant as a puzzling low-level building-complex.
Entering into a blind alley, you are met by a confused group of eating-rooms and open-fronted kitchens.
They all form part of Karim’s Restaurant.
Karim’s is so popular that at peak hours there are usually long and hungry queues waiting to be seated.
Pre-warned, we opted to eat early.
I chose a simple chicken curry, served with freshly baked naan bread: it was utterly delicious. I have been eating curries since early childhood but this was the best I have ever tasted!
Robin, my good friend and travel buddy, expressed due remorse : he had chosen something a little fancier – but not half as wonderful as my chicken curry.
I showed commendable virtue and let him dunk his naan bread in my gravy.
Never let it be said that I lack magnanimity!
True to form, by the time we left the restaurant, people were queuing outside to take our place.
We had urged our young cyclist-guide to join us as a guest for lunch. But he politely declined.
I am not sure if he was a Hindu who couldn’t face a non-vegetarian meal, or if he worried lest we deduct the cost of his meal from a possible cash tip, which might be far more important to his family’s survival..
For our last meal together before Christmas, Dalila had been exceedingly busy all morning.
I managed to keep my own plate down to almost reasonable proportions:
locally caught tuna curry; fish molee; prawn curry; cabbage gently fried with spice and coconut; and appams (rice-flour pancakes).
All served with fiercely spicy, mango pickle and Shaji’s home-made wine!.
But there was also chicken curry, pork vindaloo and, of course, rice.
Ours was a party of eight:
Shaji, Dalila, Anu, Robin, plus our three working painters – Justin & Paul, with today’s extra hand –
who are halfway through repainting the house, inside and out.
This special lunch was meant as a very heartfelt thank you,
to them all.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!