Saturday 18 November 2017

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Let Cuisine unite Konkanis

 

Konkani cuisine is one of the richest in India. The culture of co-existence has found roads to travel this cuisine by breaking all the barriers of caste, religion, regions and countries. It is thus ideal to suggest that only the barrier-free Konkani cuisine can break all the barriers we have built around us.


Dr Chandrashekhar Shenoy, the chairman of the 30th session of the All India Konkani Parishad, is full of ideas. While delivering his address yesterday, he has made several suggestions – some ideal, few practical.  In fact he has set an agenda for the Parishad. And one of them is simply fabulous - a Konkani Food Festival. He quotes an English proverb: “The road to one’s heart passes through stomach.” We have our own, by Chafra D’Costa, in a poetic form: Kalzant Vochunk Pottantlean Vaatt (काळजांत वचूंक पोटांतल्यान वाट). Dr Shenoy is pained at the divided Konkani community, within castes, religions, regions and even countries. The spread-out of Konkani community all over the world is our strength, yet a weakness. And he suggests a practical way to bring them together – our Konkani cuisine.

Konkani cuisine is one of the richest in India. Perhaps because Goa itself had 16 dynasties ruling Goa - from North to South, Hindus to Muslims and even Europeans with Africans. The historical incidents also pushed us out in all directions – to the South till Kerala and to the North till Delhi and almost all the continents of the world, even Australia and Africa. With the roots strongly marooned in Goa, the Konkani cuisine has travelled here from all these places and blended it with Goan environment. And like Dr Shenoy put it aptly, we Konkanis have different recipes for all kind of special occasions, may it be the religious feasts or seasons. The culture of co-existence has found roads to travel this cuisine by breaking all the barriers of caste, religion, regions and countries. It is thus ideal to suggest that only the barrier-free Konkani cuisine can break all the barriers we have built around us.

Perhaps that’s the reason what sells most among the Konkanis are the recipe books, across all the sections. Christians jump at vegetarian delicacies and Hindus learn non-vegetarian. Dum Biryani or Butter Chicken with typical Goan flavour is a favourite dish of any Goan household today. Hindus simply love the typical Christian food cooked with vinegar and palm jaggery while Christians visit Hindus during Chovoth to have Khotkhotem and Uddamethi. Ishttann (इश्टान्न), a Konkani recipe book by Padma Mahale published in 1998 has sold out six editions in English from 2003 till date. And Potpuja (पोटपुजा), a Konkani book by Usha Vaman Bale, made a record in Konkani itself by Sanjana Publications publishing second edition within 18 days and a third one within four months. Its English edition published by Printer’s Devil two weeks ago is already out of print. Interestingly, these books, along with many other recipe books, have been travelling all over the world, wherever resides a Konkani family. The recipe writers are today more popular among Konkanis all over the world than the literary figures, breaking all the barriers.  

But then this Food Festival also should not ride on the myths like Saraswat Food etc. Not because it displays a casteist pride but simply because it is a myth. No doubt some recipes were invented by good cooks belonging to Saraswat community in olden days. But it was not because they belong to any particular caste but simply because they had enough time to invent these recipes and could afford the delicacies on daily basis. It’s more economic than caste-based. The same recipes were found prominently displayed even among the non-Saraswat wealthy class, no matter which caste they belonged to. But, yes, largely they decorated the plates in Saraswat families at one time. But such delicacies were also cooked during any festive occasion among the toiling Bahujan Samaj, because they could not afford it on daily basis. But today it is a staple food across all the castes who can afford it. We thus need to purely look at the cuisine as Konkani rather than labelling it with caste. The cuisine again should not become an excuse to divide the Konkani society among castes or religions. Let’s embrace everything as Konkani and nothing but Konkani.

Just because Dr Shenoy has proposed the Konkani Food Festival, it should not become the responsibility of the Parishad. In fact any event management company could think of it on commercial lines, by taking sponsorships. Also it should not remain limited enjoying Konkani delicacies on the food stalls but something beyond it, like selling and releasing recipe books, interaction among the cookery writers, tasters and publishers, short films on cooking and eating etc etc. Even language should not be a barrier. The festival should in fact travel to different places every year, within and outside India. Because, as Dr Shenoy said, it should be looked upon as the best corridor to reach out to the hearts of all the Konkanis spread all over the world.

There was a time when Konkani was humiliated as a language spoken only in the cuisine by the working class (कुजनाची भास). Today, let cuisine be the Rajpath (Royal Path) to unite the world of Konkanis. With pride, and of course, with Taste. The unique Taste of India!




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Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)

Sandesh Prabhudesai is the Editor of goanews.com. He has been earlier the Editor of Sunaparant (Konkani daily) and Editor-in-Chief of Pruden (TV channel). His collection of selective editorials of Sunaparant has been published as 'Goff'. He writes brief thoughts as EdiThought for goanews.com, but not on regular basis.

 

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