Tuesday, January 22, 2013
It all started for me last Thursday, when I went to Little India, to have a Salwaar kameez made (a South Asian dress and pants ensemble). After delivering the fabric to a seamstress at Tekka Market, I wandered over to Campbell Lane to find a Ganesh for a friend. While I was in a shop there, the cows arrived, in a large, open farm truck - very large cows, at least one bull, actually. They had arrived to celebrate Pongal, The Tamil Thanksgiving of good harvests. Pongal originated in South India, but today expands to several countries where Tamils have migrated. In Singapore, for example, it is one of the largest Hindu festivals celebrated considering the large population of Tamils. It officially lasts four days, beginning on the 10th Tamil month, known as Thai, which falls in mid-January every year. Today was the third day, Mattu Pongal, when homage is paid to cattle for ploughing the fields and providing milk. Wherever Pongal is celebrated, this is the day when the cows are bathed and pampered and decorated, all in the spirit of showing reverence. Campbell Lane, a Little India focal point for shopping had been transformed into a pedestrian-only street and lined with stands selling fruit, vegetables, flower garlands, cooking pots and stalks of bamboo. A small outdoor auditorium was set up, next to the livestock pens, where dances and skits were performed. We happened to be there when several school groups were enjoying the spectacle. It started to rain. Then it poured. It didn't matter.
I first saw one of these in Sri Lanka, I think I had seen them in Singapore before, and then picked one up at Tekka Market. It's shaped like a large pear with a bumpy rind, kind of has the taste and texture of a cross between a cucumber and a zucchini. Soaks up flavors around it like a sponge. Just stir-fried it with garlic, chile padi and oyster sauce, and leeks and shiitake and a green veggie also unnamed, but I don't care. The guy at Tekka only knew the Chinese name for it, the chef in Sri Lanka called it a gourd squash, and then I googled it and came up with chayote, which supposedly originated in Central America. I'm stumped, but it tasted great!
|Chris and the Dr. Birute|
|A gibbon at feeding time|
Due to our good fortune, we were really late motoring back to Rimba Camp, where we were staying. As night descended on the canopy, we stood on the bow, looked backwards and watched a lightening show on the horizon. A great day.
|Our home in the jungle|