Friday, January 29, 2010

Food Pictures and a Recipe

A traditional south Indian dish is dosa, a fermented rice dough, with curries on the side. Another side is a coconut chutney, as there are a ton of coconuts here.

John and Eva making dosas.

Here's the recipe for coconut chutney, which is awesome on just about anything.

1 whole coconut, cut into small chunks
3 small cloves garlic
thumb size piece of ginger
1 green chili
1/4 cup of roasted peanuts (if available)

Mix all of them and add water up to about 1/2" below the top of the pile. Put in a blender until smooth.

In a separate pan, add a bit of oil and cook:
1 red chili
1 1/2 tbsp mustard seed

The seeds will start to pop after the oil heats up. When that happens, add about a dozen curry leaves. Cook them in the oil until they curl. At that point, add the oil and such to the coconut mixture and blend again. Add salt to taste.

The finished product.

And the moral of the story is..."Don't poop in the street."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"That's a tomato, m'dear"

We finally arrived in India late Saturday morning after a five hour delay in Chicago, a refueling in Frankfurt (meaning that we were not allowed to get off the plane) and missed connection in Bombay. The airline workers in Bombay were very helpful, probably noticing the large blinking sign above our heads that read, "Confused White People. Please Help." Once inside in the airport in Bangalore, we were able to find a phone to call Shalini, Namitha's aunt. However, the line was switched off! Panic struck as I realized that not only was I sick (making frequent trips to the restroom to puke), we were in an airport in the middle of India, and no idea where to go! Thankfully, I had written down the phone number for John Fennessey who was fine with us arriving a few days early and promptly gave us an address and directions to the farm.

The cab ride to Gaia Organic Farm was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Our cab driver spoke only a little English, but was able to understand where we wanted to go and listened to Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus on the radio. Driving in India appears to be a free for all in which the only rules are "find a hole and don't look back." There are lanes painted on the road but no one pays any attention. If mom thought I was a jack rabbit driver, she should take a ride with this guy. He drove until the speedometer literally screamed, "Exceeding speed limit! Reduce your speed!" until he was only a foot away from the huge speed bump and slowed down to about 5 mph. Needless to say, this did not make my stomach feel any better.

We somehow 'safely' managed to reach John's farm. The farm is small, only five acres, consisting of a vegetable garden (tomatos, eggplant, lettuce, beans, millet) and fruit trees (mango, papaya, chickoo and coconut). We were excited to see that there is another WWOOFer on the farm as well! Eva is 20 and from Germany. John employs one full time farm hand (Babu) and a woman (Radha) who cooks lunch each day. Radha and Babu don't speak much English. We were surprised to hear that once you get out of the city (even if it is only a bus ride away) the local people only speak Kannada and Telegu (that's not even Hindi!). Andy and I are getting used to the new diet of rice (a lot of rice) and ragi (a kind of millet, which is supposed to be very good for you) along with all of the curries.

The weather here is nice. Pretty consistent in the high 70s (down to maybe 50 at night) and sunny. It's the dry season, so there hasn't been rain in over a month, which makes our weeding jobs more difficult. I am learning that I don't know as much about plants as I pretend to know. While weeding yesterday, I showed one to John, asking if I could pull it up. He gave a little sigh as he said, "That's a tomato, m'dear." Oops. The work so far has been a little slow, and we are hoping that it will pick up more in the next couple days. Today has been our first adventure into Bangalore, which will have to be another blog post altogether.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We're alive! Internet costs money and is damn slow, so there'll be more later. In the meantime, some pictures.

The mountains on the flight between Bombay and Bangalore.

Breakfast with John Fennessy, the owner of the farm we're staying on.

Andy in the hut where we live now!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where we're going

We are starting to get everything squared away for our departure. Our flight will depart from Chicago O'Hare International airport on Thursday afternoon. From Chicago we head to Frankfurt, Germany with a layover just long enough to enjoy some German beer. Then to Bombay (Mumbai), India! We will finally arrive in Bangalore, a two hour flight from Bombay, at 4 am on Saturday morning.

We start at the bottom and go north!

We'll stumble out of the plane looking like zombies, probably. Not wanting to navigate a crazy-ass Indian city jet-lagged and totally green, we arranged to be picked up at the airport. Our fellow co-oper, Namitha, put us in contact with her aunt Shalini there. Hopefully she'll show us around and keep me (Andy) from doing anything too stupid for the first few days. To travel light, Paige and I are only bringing a few days of clothes and we're going to buy Indian clothes in the markets there. I hope Shalini's cooking skillz are as awesome as Nami's and I look forward to seeing what real Indian food is like. A reliable source has told me that everything in the south is fried in coconut oil, which is awesome!

A random picture off the internet of bread fried in coconut oil, channa bhatura.
I will take lots of food porn pictures for all you folks!

Farming starts in earnest on the 20th. We'll be staying for about a month and a half each at three different farms. The farmers invest time in teaching WWOOFers the skills to be helpful at the farm, so it's good etiquette to stay for at least a month afterward and put those skills to use.

The first farm we'll stay at is a small family farm just outside of Bangalore owned by a gent named John Fennessy. He's a US expat with an Indian wife, so there shouldn't be any language barrier issues while we adjust to working on a farm. What do they do there?
The land is mostly flat, the plot is long and narrow, just under five acres, with an already established mango and chickoo orchard, as well as several full grown coconuts, mangoes and pomegranate trees. We have begun making intensive vegetable gardens, and there are some completely open fields, which we hope to use for growing more veggies and field crops. That said, it is definitely a young farm and where most of the work is happening there is little shade… It is a life of simplicity and hard work amid a peaceful atmosphere.
Sweet. His farming approach is based upon permaculture which I have had great curiosity about. Traditional agricultural approaches are very hard on the soil, depleting nutrients and requiring continual addition of fertilizers. Permaculture instead aims to build healthy and diverse ecosystems that yield produce for the people cultivating them.

The beaches of Kerala will be close enough to make trips on the weekend. This is what it looks like outside of my house:

This is what the beaches in Kerala look like:

via flickr