In December, the Canteen at Khoj Studios hosted a really interesting event called Food Kisse Connection, which was a human library related to food! This event was held in collaboration with the Aagaz Theatre Trust. A part of the Khirki festival held at Khoj, this event gave participants an insight into the lives of four “books”, (actually people!) who shared their food memories paired with a particular dish. On the menu was Sadaf’s Kacche Gosht Ki Biryani, Shubha’s Dahi Bhalla with tamarind chutney, Priya’s dish with fish and spinach, and Ivis’ Alloco (Ivory coast speciality). The event started with a lot of excitement, as the registration team encouraged festival visitors to sign up. Once there were enough participants, the event began. Ivis from Ivory Coast was the most popular book, and he told the readers about Alloco, a fried fish, plantain, salad, and greens based dish, and the memories he has of his country. He regaled the readers with special insights about his country, and told them tales they had never heard before. Ivis is a binding force in the neighbourhood, and is a regular at the canteen as well. Hence, his presence as a book was really refreshing and lent local flavor. Sadaf’s kacche gosht ki biryani was also really well appreciated. The dish was made in a pot, layering the meat and the rice. An interesting ingredient he used was raw papaya, which helped to marinate the meat. Marinating the meat overnight also made a lot of difference. He told readers about his childhood years, eating this particular biryani, as well as cultural cues and nuances related to this dish. Sadaf has also been a contestant on the popular Masterchef India TV show, and is a consultant chef at various cafes. Hence his food repertoire is immense. The readers were pleased to hear his interesting take and insight on as basic a dish as biryani. He also lives in Khirki like Ivis, and hence his participation also gave the event local flavor. Shubha told the readers about a different time period, where life was simpler, and people still celebrated marriages in neighbourhood parks, centered around food like dahi bhalla. As the readers relished each bite, Shubha took them back to her childhood, with great ease and panache. She told them about weddings and how they were held back then, with the destination being the park or community hall, and not a fancy location outside the city or country. Surprisingly, one of her readers told her that in her hometown, weddings were still celebrated the old school way. This brought about fond memories and camaraderie between the book and the reader. Priiya’s dish, which she called “A fish’s dream”, was fried fish with spinach. Her story was about how she met an old woman on a ship, (The Istanbul Steamer). The destination of the ship was to Andaman Islands. The old woman lived on a house half drowned by the tsunami. She gave her a fish recipe that was probably older than the existence of ships and steamers in that area. This simple dish was tasty and fulfilling. This event was great learning for the canteen team. We went beyond our usual repertoire of poha, khichdi etc, and learnt how to make new and exciting dishes like biryani! Sadaf actually stood in the kitchen with us and made the dish, which made the experience all the more worthwhile. The canteen is planning another Kisse Connection for July, and we hope to see a lot of you then.
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