The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with Frette linens (or ones that felt like it anyway), Forest Essential toiletries and thoughtful touches like coconut oil for the hair– a very Kerala thing to do. After dumping our bags, we go to lunch where Chef Salin Kumar tells us that he can make whatever we feel like eating.
“I will have a North Indian lunch,” my mother announces, completely counter to her Kerala-food-loving usual self. Is this what happens to people when they go back to their “native” I wonder. Maybe returning to your native place makes you open, adventurous, bold in your choices…young. To my long-running mental list of things to do to age gracefully, I add one more item: return to your native place more often.
Over the next few days, we tuck into a spectacular puttu-and-kadala, which is to Kerala what dal-roti is to Punjab. Kadala curry is made with black chickpeas, coconut and curry leaves which are the ‘garam masala’ flavour that pervades all Kerala food. Puttu is coarsely ground red rice mixed with, yes, coconut and steamed in a special pot. It can be eaten with ghee and sugar, or bananas, or kadala curry or all of the above. To go to Kerala and not eat fish is what a Malayali would call a tragedy. The way they use prawns and pearl spot fish in their “meen polichathu” and “karimeen” dishes make homesick Malayalis salivate. Being vegetarian, we make do appam and stew, Kerala sadhya with hot pappadam, and expansive breakfasts.