Arnattokadu, Kalekkadu – these are the names of two small villages in Tamil Nadu, South India I have visited in the last weeks. During the visits these women showed me their houses, told me about their lives, their self-help groups and how they want to create their own future. I learnt also about their challenges, poverty and missing education level which is one of the biggest barriers when it comes to finding a good job that really gives them an opportunity to have a better life. In the last years with setting up their self-help groups they have developed a lot. But malnourishment and a huge dependency on third parties is still there.
When I stayed there before we had discussed their old traditional cooking, too, their recipes and developed a rough plan to collect them in a small booklet. I learnt that old good practices do not just disappear in the modern world, but even in these tribal villages. Like in the modern world it is mostly the old ladies and men – they do still know about many plants and recipes, they have remedies the young women have forgotten. These women liked the idea of recipe collection right from the beginning. When I left the last time, they had further discussions and developed a plan how to make sure that these recipes would not get lost. This is how all started… and ended up with an invitation for lunch together. They knew and wanted me to test their food, also for getting a first feedback before they would have worked out further plans on how to do a tribal cooking book during the upcoming weeks…
Video: tribal coconut rasp
I am very happy about this invitation. It is not just the tasting and curiosity to find out about their traditions, but for me it is also a very emotional moment. A moment of human relationship “across all borders” of nationality, social level, educational differences….
Additionally, I really enjoy that they have taken the initiative. Together, as a group: they are motivated to try new things, to build up something as a team – even they might not have the best Settings to do so (some of them are illiterate, most have a very low school education only). This obvious willingness to develop makes them to real changemakers.
It is difficult to describe how the lunch was: it was simply amazing. In the first village – a very small one with 18 families only – the women had got up very early in the morning to prepare the single components: rice, chicken, curries, different types of bread and sweets. “Come and see where we cook it,” one lady invited me when I arrived and took me to the back of a house where in a seperat, very small room without any door, a woman was sitting in front of the fireplace and frying a bread with peanuts and spices. Simple fireplaces, a few pots, some basic tools – no electric machines, no fridge, no oven – that’s the place where they usually prepare their own meals, too. It might not be very comfortable, especially during the rainy season…
They arranged two tables in the middle of the village road, put some flowers and then adjusted all the single ingredients on a banana leaf. They made us sit on the few chairs they have in the village and insisted that we tasted all. It was really good. They were happy to see that we really appreciated all their efforts. The village artist (see also a earlier post/ link below) stayed also with us – because he wanted to show us a picture he had started to draw – for the recipe book as a cover…
When we left one of the women gave me a hug, the first time in my life I got a warm, strong hug by a tribal women. I will not forget this moment that easily.
In the second village, a bigger village with ca.30 houses they had prepared a huge welcome on our arrival: A function-like welcome. One of those functions they celebrate from time to time in their villages. They had not started yet to cook because they wanted me to show how they prepared it all: adjusting the fireplace with Hindu praise, melting the grain, cutting the coconut in small pieces with a piece of wood and knife in front, mixing and forming certain ingredients. It was a huge event – and so many things to discover.
Also here the lunch was very tasty and the women very proud and honored. The meal ended with a dance and a song presented by the women – very powerful and peaceful at the same time, and with a lot of smiling faces.
Thanks, my tribal women. I am sure I will come back and visit you again!