The Culinary heritage of Goa
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Tales of Goa’s Culinary History
Goa- a land with many stories to tell. In all its given beauty and vastness, covering the length and breadth of the state in a matter of 9 months, is indeed a labor of love. I vividly remember the day as if it was yesterday. Being commissioned by Odette Mascarenhas, my mother, to embark on this adventure of documenting ‘heritage’, which is important to all us Goans worldwide. The deadline was non-negotiable and I fl ew down to Goa on the next available fl ight. What followed was nothing short of a directorial venture- scripts and storyboard narrations with Odette describing each shot required to compliment her draft. This was indeed something I owed to Goa for a long time coming.
It was nothing short of a photographer’s nightmare to compose this essay, given the restrictions posed by nature and Goa’s cyclic patterns. My earliest trysts with challenges for this project took me to the paddy fi elds nestled astride the highway towards Mapusa. It was in the middle of July and the rains were at its furious best. The objective shot was to showcase the farmers tilling the land for harvest. Paddy being the staple diet relies heavily on the monsoon, and the tireless pursuit by farmers to ensure a bountiful crop all year round. I chanced upon a bullock in the fields on autopilot with no farmer in sight. The winds were strong and my umbrella turn turtled inside out only to have me scurry to guard my camera and get drenched in the process. Getting shots in the monsoon is never easy but ever so rewarding. Fortuitously though, when all was going south a peacock appeared on a congruent field and distracted the bull to inch closer to my camera and what followed was the depiction of the lush greens against a smoke grey sky, a pictorial rendition of what the farmers go through to earn a livelihood.
Some journey’s left me hungry and tanned whilst others left me wanting more. What enticed me every single day as a child was the lessons imparted about our history and culture and it was indoctrinated on a daily basis, be it the food we ate or the discussions we had. It is safe to say this would be my first documentary where I slept with my camera on standby. My equipment and kit became a part of me from outings, friendly get- togethers, parties, to occasional bathroom breaks. every aspect of Goa was a potential shot for the book.
From palace visits to spice plantations this book is nothing short of a mini encyclopaedia. A better challenge that presented itself was the cataloguing and documentation of the project. Close to 5650 images were shot and documented and left me with the daunting task of selection. Photographing so many preparations to showcase theslightest hint of colour, at times got my goat. Could I differentiate between kodi/hooman/ muslimkadi? They all looked the same and yet so different. This journey did bring loads of smiles to my face with traditions heard over fi replaces and what life during the Portuguese era was. Right from nearly cracking my camera lens going too close to roasting cashews across supernova embers in an old ancestral home, it was important to capture the stages of how cashew nuts were roasted in the past. A further discovery was the realization of the best bread in Goa right from the time of the Jesuits. Quepem taluka tossed up a fabulous surprise in the deep dark trenches of an old bakery where I got to document and witness the making of bread in wood fi red ovens.
From Churches & temples to architecture and historical grandeur, this book is not your average recipe book. The Culinary heritage of Goa is a record of both pictorial and documented legacies passed down from knowledge banks of locals from various talukas, to old recipes from chef’s of the Goan Culinary Club. From old families living in Goa to entrepreneurs giving details of the past. It was Odette’s mission to ensure that the essence of Goa was captured in this book through the key ingredients. Ingredients on which this tiny state depends and is known for. The book has an eclectic blend of history, myths and local legends along with a few recipes to add flavor. Odette Mascarenhas known in many food circles as an authority on Goan cuisine is currently competing for Best in the World, at the prestigious Gourmand Cookbook Awards to be held in Yangtai China this June. She is the only Indian entry representing India and Goa amongst competition from across the world. Like the director in her succeeded in this project we hope and pray she makes the final cut there and wins.
Text and Pics: Nolan Mascarenhas