On our visits to Assam, we are frequently asked the question about our eating habits. “What do you eat there?”; “Do you find this ingredient there?” – so on and so forth.
When we moved to the UK six years ago (seven, for my better half), we would frequent the local Indian grocery shops quite frequently. But, it all changed one day when we bought some fish- you know, the kind we find “back home”! It was frozen, but, somehow we couldn’t resist the temptation. The fish was excitedly taken home; plans were made on the way about the ‘jool’ (the traditional Assamese, light curry of soupy consistency) which would be made to accompany the fish.
And so the gravy was made, the fish rubbed with salt and turmeric, fried and set aside. As the gravy simmered, the pieces of fish were carefully and lovingly dropped into the gravy, and simmered for some more. And then we waited, waited for the fish to mingle with the gravy and let out its flavours. The wait continued right through the time I was cooking, sniffing the air with anticipation, as I transferred the curry into the serving bowl, right through the time we had our meal and till it was over. But no, there was no sign of the flavours and aromas that we were so used to back in Assam. But, then, the fish was frozen, having travelled thousands of miles to reach us here in the UK, the flavours must have got lost in all that travelling!
This incident had taught us an important lesson, about how important it is to be a locavore (those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food). I have made fish curries hundreds of times after that day, but now, I make it with locally available fish, and the transformation is instantaneous; the freshness of ingredients shine through.
As for the rest of the cooking, well, the learning and experiments still continue. We still patronise the local Indian grocery shop, but it is more for dry cooking ingredients and spices, with the exception, of course, the boxes of luscious mangoes in the summer (we’re still working on it, but those lush, yellow beauties are giving us a real hard time). As far as the other fresh ingredients go, local is the way to be.
We are quite blessed to be living where we do now, as farms and fields are just a short drive away. Fresh produce grown just a little away from the stalls where they are being sold are a treat to the eyes.
We do yearn for some of those ingredients that we have grown up on, probably more because of the memories that they trigger. But we usually don’t give in to the temptation, as we know that they are bound to be disappointing. Instead, we would rather subdue those longings and wait for our next visit back home to enjoy the delights that are fresh and local to our region, instead of giving in to their well travelled and withered counterparts. We do enjoy traditional Assamese meals very often, here in the UK, but substitute the ingredients with those that are fresh and found locally. Memories are fine, but until the next time we go home, the asparagus and the leeks, the broccoli and celery, the salmons and the trouts, the mackerels and the cods, the rhubarb, strawberries and blackberries ( and there plenty more fruits, vegetables and fish) will do just fine!
Yes, we try to be locavores as much as we can, do you?
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