Sunday, December 7, 2008

Breakfast Of Champions

We've been in Cochin now for a couple of days. Mostly resting and trying to get adjusted to the time zone. The boys are finding it a little bit challenging, as India does present a full frontal assault on all of one's senses. It's the polar opposite of sitting on the beach in Cabo San Lucas and ordering a series of cervezas from the pool boy. Doing the simplest thing can be very daunting, as every cultural cue that you are used to using for social or geographical navigation does not exist. It's a little like showing up for your corporate office gig topped up with a near lethal dose of hallucinogens and expecting to put in a good days work. Everyone looks at you differently and you're not sure why, and the landscape that used to be so familiar is now completely alien. New sounds. New smells. Your eye gets caught up in minute details of architectural decay. And the colours... the colours... Okay, the 60s were good to me, I admit.

Soon, one begins to adapt, and gradually it becomes more normal to traipse through rough and broken streets at dusk, looking on the unmarked streets for a distant restaurant that has been recommended, surrounded by small swooping bats, and dodging cockroaches the size of chihuahuas on what used to be the sidewalk perhaps 100 years ago. Our little entourage, now looking like the poster family for "Polygamy Today" magazine, picks their way though the constantly changing obstacle course. We move past wafting smoke from fires of unknown origin, and clouds of incense intertwined with the aroma of sewage, dodging regular assaults from the legions of tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws) that buzz past like big noisy honking insects.

It's insane. And it's fabulous.

That said, the India we are seeing today looks a little different from the one I saw in 2000. Yes, there are still beggars and rampant poverty, but there is an emerging Indian middle class. Everyone has a cel phone, and we even see some women in jeans. That's a lot of cultural change in such a short amount of time. Also, while there is still some livestock in the streets, there does not seem to be as much before. Once again, I'm not sure how much of that is location dependent, as this is my first time in the South Traveling as a family is also quite different than the backpacking trip Laurel and I did in 2000. We can't just wake up and do as we please. Kids need to be fed and entertained, and that takes planning. We're really lucky to have Emma with us, as she is wonderful with the boys, and they are very fond of her. We must make quite an odd sight when the five of us meander down a street! The funny thing that we're discovering is that Isaac is regarded as a rock star here. When we cruise down a street, other parents smile at us and try and pat his head. Other kids point and stare in amazement at this little blond haired blue eyed stranger. People in the South are much darker than in the North, so he really stands out in stark relief to the landscape! Fortunately, he has not realized the full extent of his newfound stardom, and has not demanded an increase to his already hefty appearance fee.

Today, Laurel is doing some business remotely for her new Naked Soapworks store that opens next week on Bowen Island. Thank Vishnu for the internet! My task is to find a voltage converter to replace the made-in-China one that blew up instantly the first time I plugged it in when we were in Singapore. Curiously, the fuse was the only thing that survived the incident. I really thought that the Chinese had a better handle on quality control. Tomorrow, we begin the search in earnest to see if we can locate a house to live in. This is the last link in the chain for us before we can get down to work planning our filming. That should be an adventure!

For the last couple of mornings, we've been going to the Indian Coffee House for breakfast. It's just down the block from the hotel. It's part of a chain operated by a workers co-op. This is a Communist state, after all! They do awesome fresh grape and pineapple juices for 10 rupees. Wonderful parathas, puris, and chappatis. Great masala dosa. There are two things that are new to me. One is the "Egg Roast", which is a hard boiled egg sitting in a very spicy sauce with caramelized onions and tomato. It's spiced with clove, cinnamon, cardamom, chile, and a hint of fennel. Its quite excellent, and highly addictive. The other is "Bombay Toast", which is kind of like french toast. That one has proven very popular with the boys, despite the complete absence of maple syrup. The masala dosa comes with a nice coconut chutney, and great sambar (a kind of spicy lentil gravy). The filling has tomato, onions, spices, and potatoes that actually taste like potatoes! Breakfast for the five of us with a dish, breads, coffee, and fresh juice comes in at around 175 rupees. About four dollars Canadian! Laurel already makes a pretty good dosa batter, and I do a decent masala potato filling. I really want to perfect my sambar recipe before we return. Right now, that seems pretty far away...

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