Saturday, March 17, 2018

Spring time in Goa : Shigmotsav

Spring or Phagun according to Indian calendar is a month of Intense celebration in India.

Food and festivities is a heady mix, and one which I have revisited time and again, be it Chitirai Thiruvizha in Madurai, or Durga Pujo in Kolkata, but when it comes to Goa, the festivals are so unique that they deserve entire blog posts.

I have written three posts on Carnival celebrations in the state, and two posts on Diwali celebrations DIWALI IN GOA with Narkasur, and now another well kept secret of the state, Shigmotsav.
Shigmo, is a rural festival previously celebrated only in the villages of Goa, but when the Carnival celebrations gained popularity in the state, with the Government backing it as a tourist attraction, the Hindus in the state demanded equal awareness about the Shigmo festival and thus started the festivities in the cities aswell.

Shigmotsav, the festival celebrating Phagun weather in Goa

Starting on the day before Holi, pretty much like the Holika Dahan across the country, Shigmotsav also begins in similar fashion in the villages of Goa, especially the ones in the extreme south like Canacona, because this was the seat of the Hindu community in Goa, especially during the time of the Portuguese colonisation. Ponda is another Hindu heartland and Shigmo festivities are close to the residents of the area, but by now the festivities are seen across the state.

But as a tourist /traveller to Goa what can you expect?
Fancy dress processions with Indian Mythology , larger than life grand floats depicting Indian mythology, and an elaborate and beautifully in sync parade with drummers, and dancers. The parades happen in every city and town of Goa, and start from the saturday after Holi and continue till Gudi Padwa. from Phagun to Chaitra month this turn of season festival is a profusion of colours. 
The best part is the parades, where you can introduce your children to Indian Mythology in a fun interactive manner, be it selfies with Vishnu and Yamaraj, or a larger than life floating Hanuman procession in search of sanjeevani.

Holi celebrations at Grand Hyatt Goa

colours of spring, gulalotsav

I like my pinks , yellows and oranges as candy floss

Shigmo means taking selfies with Lord Vishnu on the streets

Insta stories of what we ate while enjoying the floats in Shigmo

getting his balcony seat to the show, enjoying shigmotsav on Daddy's shoulder and eating popcorn
Food ofcourse is never far from our celebrations, candyfloss, chocolate icecream and popcorn were part of our Shigmo parade munchies, and fafda Jalebi and Thandai were part of the Holi celebrations, followed by Puranpoli and shrikhand on Gudi Padwa.

our festivities are always interspersed with food, be it Popcorn and icecream during the night float parade of Shigmo or the Holi celebrations with Jalebi and Thandai.

Thandai served in Clay pots, at a 5 star beach resort in Goa, Holi celebrations done in style at Grand Hyatt Goa

the ghode modni is by far my favourite part of the procession during Shigmo

getting to be part of the processions and interacting with the participants was a real treat. tip to attending the festivities, head to the start of the procession, where the crowds are thin, and the participants are al geared up and raring to start their procession.

My husband's name is Pawan, and Lord Hanuman is also called the 'son of Pawan' , here is the father with two of his son's , both figurative and real :)

Just as Lord Hanuman took off on his flight to gather sanjeevani, we got another cute father son, family pic

and me thumsuping while Ravana sets off on his rampages, to be fair, I do think he was a misunderstood man, and really a romantic at heart. The mythology is after all open to interpretation.

a car filled with masks and costumes

This is my favourite picture from the festivities. well , after the picture with Vishnu ofcourse

and then we went and got ourselves a selfie with Yamaraj.Note the skull necklace.

Here it is my favourite picture !
Balam pichkari; my son's pichkari acted as food styling props for holi

the perfect blend of sweet and savoury, jalebi and fafdaa.

The sweet beginning to the New year with Puranpoli and shrikhand.
I hope the pictures have enticed you to come join in next years Shigmo festivities, and immerse yourself in a truly Indian experience. In a country where Agriculture and Mythology are an intrinsic part of life Shigmo is a celebration of both.

here are some of my other festival and food related posts

Durga Pujo Bhog

Durga Pujo as a Kid

Carnival in Goa

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Women In the Kitchen ; Sonia Patil

March , the month when we celebrate women, more than we celebrate them through the year. Honestly , I had never heard of "women's place is in the kitchen" adage while I was growing up; my mother is a doctor, and my aunts are doctors and professionals. And yet , I didn't see many women in professional kitchens either. 
This month I turn my focus on women in professional kitchens. 
Meet Sonia Patil, someone I haven't met face to face, but I discovered her on Social Media. She is spunky , and opinionated (read below interview to find out), but more than that, she has dreams, and isn't afraid to work hard to achieve them.With a scholarship to Le Cordon Bleu, Australia, this girl is set to go places, and I am happy to feature her in my "women in the Kitchen" series. 
No matter what field you are in, no matter what gender, and whether you work in a domestic kitchen or a professional one; it's important to have dreams, and the determination to go after them.

I am Sonia Manoj Patil.
I've recently completed a 3 year B.Sc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, Goa, and have just begun my specialisation in culinary arts with a 2.3 year Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management in Commercial Cookery from Le Cordon Bleu, Melbourne.

Your Goa connection?
Born and brought up in Goa with a Maharashtrian father and Kannadiga mother, who were also raised in Goa, leading to an amalgamation of food cultures in our very home.
Your food philosophy?

I've noticed that in this industry, animal products and meat are valued so much, with restaurants wanting to serve the freshest seafood, poultry, meat, even if sometimes it is required to present the guest with a live creature, for them to be allowed a choice at which creature they want to sentence to death. This often occurs with seafood. The methods of killing are often not humane, with live crab and lobster often being boiled alive in a pot, rattling and trying to climb out and escape, with the crab even detaching its claws/pincers from its body. The correct method would be to allow it to go into hibernation in a blast chiller or freezer before boiling it, but as this takes time and restaurants want to present live seafood to a consumer, it is not enforced. 

I am no vegetarian myself, but I do believe in mercy and ethical methods of butchery, even though we'd all agree that there is nothing ethical about murder. But if we are to choose what we eat, let us choose consciously. Let us understand that every piece of meat, every cut, was once a part of a much larger live animal that lived, breathed and birthed, just like us. Let us respect the animals we choose to consume, believe in humane killing and try to enforce it, and not waste meat, and food in general. 

From cuddling baby lambs to frenching a lamb rack; if I ever think too much about what it is that I really do in my profession, it stings. But it's a choice I've made and a job I must perform until I am independent and financially stable enough to make my own decisions about what I choose to cook. Nevertheless, be a conscious consumer and respect the animal you eat, and protect it from being tortured, murdered unethically and harmed. That's the least we can do in times where it seems as if we've lost all our humanity. 

I have quite a lot I believe in.

Firstly; always have an intense hunger to learn; experiment; stay open to new ideas; share your knowledge.
Secondly; you can never do enough research; never study enough about food. There are no finite boundaries; no limits to how one can play around with ingredients and what one can do with them.
Thirdly; making food look beautiful is just as important as making it taste good, and vice versa. One eats with their eyes first, and if the food looks spectacular, it fools the mind into believing that it tastes spectacular, thus ensuring that the eater's taste buds are coaxed into enjoying the food even more than they would have if the food looked mediocre.
Fourthly; I have four tips to planning a good dish: Flavour, Texture, Colour, Aroma.
Finally; being an organised cook will save you so much time and allow you to work faster and give you better results. Cleanliness is extremely important.

Have you ever felt that being a woman in the kitchen has worked in your favour or to your disadvantage? 
There are no men and women in a kitchen. Everyone has to be tough, and everyone needs to work just as hard. Yet, in the kitchens of restaurants and hotels in India, being a woman is a huge disadvantage because not every male cook is literate. They usually take up a cooks job because it pays well enough for them to keep their family fed, and doesn't require much education, only skill, which comes with experience and rigorous training. They don't often see women in professional kitchens and they work long hours, which results in many untoward incidents such as verbal and physical harassment and molestation. I have had a fair share of experiences myself and I think that this is one of the reasons why many women choose not to work in professional kitchens in India. I feel that a thorough character check should be conducted before hiring staff, and compulsory moral education should be provided.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 
I take every day as it comes even though I plan major goals years in advance. I've met my 7th std goal of studying at Le Cordon Bleu, 1.5 months ago.
Five years from now, I hope to be cooking better food than I do at this moment; working a restaurant kitchen job that makes me happy, and learning something new every day.
What is your best career moment?
Winning the Endeavour Vocational Education and Training Scholarship by the Australian Government, which sponsored so much of my education here in Le Cordon Bleu, and made me a part of a select group of high achievers here in Australia. It was the best career moment for me as it made all the years of studying hard to get good scores worth it, and now allows me the freedom to work without pay if I choose to, only because I am backed up financially, and independently. 
What is your worst career moment? 
Every time I have to present a dish that I have not been able to put my 100% into because of making stupid errors and ill judgement. Every time I paint a picture in my head and do not manage to get that up, and every time I do not perform to someone's expectations and let them down. I am a little bit of a perfectionist and even though I do not physically "practice", cooking something, I tend to ensure that I have done my research, looked at atleast 50 pictures, compared variations in recipes as well as plating styles, cooked it a couple of times in my head, and sometimes in my dreams too.

Rapid fire ( first word that comes to your mind) 
Goa :Land of my favourite food.
Fish :Masala Rawa Fry, Curry, Recheado, Parra, Kismoor; can't live without them!
Chef life : Pretty tough, but so worth it!
Mentor :Met so many cooks who taught me so much. Can't name just one.
Favourite celebrity chef: Gordon Ramsey of course!
Fav woman chef: Honestly, don't really have one. Most of the ones I know and follow are celebrity chefs or authors. But the tastiest food I've eaten, is what Mum cooks, and I think that qualifies her to be my favourite woman chef. 
Fav junk food: Burgers with a meat overload, wedges, extra crispy bacon on the side and an aerated beverage to wash it all down.
Fav healthy snack: I usually eat whatever I feel like eating at that moment, without worrying about calories and nutrition. But if I have to mention a favourite healthy snack, it would have to be hummus. Just a big bowl of warm creamy hummus, with olive oil drizzled over the top.
It's interesting for me to see an age old vocation, which was always considered a "woman's job" actually being taken as a highly skilled and a competitive profession.
I have previously celebrated Home Chefs.
and you can read those blog articles by clicking on the links below.
Home chefs of Pune
aaichi Ranchikud

Eating according to your Zodiac sign, at Vivanta by Taj , Panjim

Zodiac signs and the sunsigns have always fascinated me. More during my college days than now, but I remember us medical college students, followers of science and of a rational mind, acting like every other giddy college girl, as we read deep into the night from our Linda Goodman ‘Love signs ‘ book.

I can see all of you nodding your head in agreement, because whether we believe in it or not, all of us have tried to see if we are indeed star struck lovers, or star crossed lovers.
And so it was fascinating to go for the Zodiac themed lunch at Vivanta by Taj, Panjim. The husband ofcourse is a complete non believer, and yet it was an interesting for him too, which is a big plus.
I am a Virgo, and my husband a Gemini, and if you are into the stars and moons, you will realise that these sunsigns are like chalk and cheese, and we realised just how much at the lunch.
The team at Taj Vivanta , Panjim, has worked exceedingly hard on this menu.
First they did extensive research into not only what each sun sign likes to eat, but also what is good for them to eat.

Then they realised there was a lot of overlap within sunsigns, but they decided to still make clearly defined menus for each of the sun signs.

Then they set out to make three coursed meals for each sunsign, and the courses were seamlessly following not only the sunsigns, but also the cuisines. So if you got a soup of makai aur akhrot ka shorba ( corn and walnut soup), it was followed by either a vegetarian Mewa malai kofta or a non vegetarian Nihari Gosht served with peas pulao and tandoori rotis, and followed by a dessert of Anjeer Badaam ka Halwa. (Menu for cancerians)

Or like the Pisceans , they got a Goan meal of Caldo verde, shrimp curry, goan rice , xacuti and kismoor, followed by a dessert of a Goan dessert sampler platter, and coconut gelato (yumm!)
SO if you decided that you don’t like/or don’t want to eat the meal assigned to your star sign, you can choose from any of the 12 fixed meal combinations! I would have probably opted for the Piscean meal, but we ate according to what our stars dictated, and we were not disappointed.
i swapped my soup for my favourite, Tum Kha

a cold Gazpacho soup and Tapas were part of the Gemini menu

The snapper with Arugula salad was perfect, part of the Virgo Menu, it made me believe in zodiac signs even more

a tiramisu cake and fresh fruits like kiwis and figs, part of the Virgo Menu

a warm bread and butter pudding along with creme anglaise, part of the Gemini menu

a flourlesss chocolate cake with almond meal, part of my son's Leo menu 

Chef Sahil, the man behind the stellar menu. brilliant conceptualisation and execution

All 12 Menus, if you ever olan on visiting

The zodiac festival was on till the 4 th of March, but depending on the interesst shown by patrons, they can be tempted to redo the festival again.
It was one of the more cohesive and complete food festivals, in terms of concept, ex3ecution and presentation, as well as food flavours.