As many friends will know I am not the most organised traveller and so arriving at Thallasery train station after a seventeen-hour train journey from Mumbai at 11am in the morning I need to find a place to stay. A quick flick through Google for blogs on the area and off we go towards Paris hotel where I take a single non-ac room for three hundred and fifty rupees.
With a place to stay and a quick nap under my belt I’m famished, so heading north past Fort Thallsery built in 1708 by the British looking to put their stamp on this land I stumble across Hotel National. In its window piles of freshly cooked appum fermented rice pancakes thick spongy centres surrounded by a delicate lace edge draw me in. Inside men hunch over metal trays using their right hand they mix food to form small clumps, deftly scooping with four fingers they push the contents into their mouth with their thumb.
Meanwhile the owner hoisting a large plate of fish fry from the window offers me a choice of fish, I pick a cutlet of what might be local seer fish and a small whole fish, the first man reappears four cylindrical containers all neatly contained on a specialised stand, with a flick of his hand he deposits the contents of each on to my plate two types of dal, cabbage thoran and a chilli sauce made with a fresh tomato base. I must of looked like a sucker because where the locals chose one choice of extra dish to go with their food I ended up with four, two types of fish fry, prawns in a spicy red sauce and a dish of lamb brains fried in a paste curry leaves, ginger and loads of garam masala my plate mopped clean with two delicious appum.
Slowly meandering back to my hotel feeling incredibly inspired by the incredible meal, I pick up freshly pickled pieces of pineapple and green mango to aid my digestion, available at most roadside stalls in the area fresh fruit are fermented in brine a delicious healthy afternoon snack. The millions of ideas now rushing through my head however had to it wait because as soon as I make it back to the hotel my head hits the hay for a second afternoon nap.
I have now been in Kerala for five days, eating each meal with my hands just like mum used to when I was a kid, every meal eaten even the most simple of meals inspires me to continue my journey and as I deepen my understanding of the food and culture of my mothers home the more I love it.