Thursday, December 25, 2008

Now The Fun Begins

We've check a bunch of stuff off of our list. Packing the house. Flying across the world. Adjusting to the time difference. Finding a house. Setting up an office. Trying to do an approximation of Christmas with the kids. Now its time to get to work.

We have a few shoots lined up already. There's a woman we found who demonstrates Keralan cooking in Fort Cochin that we plan to visit for a preproduction meeting this week. There's a spice farm/homestay a few hours away that has agreed to be filmed and provide accommodation in exchange for promotional mention. We've also been invited to a large Hindu wedding (500 people!) in a nearby town. We've been given permission to film every aspect of food prep for the wedding party. But best of all, there is our landlord's wife, Gee Gee. She is an amazing cook, and has agreed to let us film her making several of her favourite things. In fact, yesterday was a pretty special Christmas day for us. Stanley and Gee Gee invited the whole family over for an elaborate Christmas day lunch, the epic scope of which we were a little unprepared for.

We arrived just after noon bearing a fresh pineapple, only to be quickly ushered into the dining room where a coconut-pineapple cake was instantly produced, sliced, and literally stuffed in our mouths. Literally. Stanley pushed a piece into my face with his hands. Gee Gee and her daughter Amrita did not sit and eat with us, but instead, hovered attentively. Small glasses of homemade ginger wine were next. Then came a beef and coconut milk curry with appam, the pancake-like flatbread, accompanied by beer that Stanley poured with a flourish. We ate tons, and complimented the yummy quality of the food, which was better than any restaurant we had eaten at. We figured that we were done. Then there was a chili chicken, shrimp fried rice, and roast duck! Another complete meal! Groaning, we discovered to late that if you finish everything on your plate, as we were taught to do when we were kids, it's actually a signal to your host that you would like more. Bugger.

Then there was a dessert course of carrot cake with cardamom. Followed by a fruitcake. More beer. Then a fruit salad with ice cream. Tea. About 2:45, we waddled out into the bright sun, looking vaguely like Mr. & Mrs. Jabba The Hut and their bloated youthful entourage. Good thing that they live next door, as a lengthy walk would have proved challenging. Gee Gee is a truly amazing cook, and we can't wait to document some of her recipes. They are both so kind and gracious towards us. We're feeling pretty lucky to have landed in their backyard.

Upon arriving home, I commenced the prep for our own Christmas dinner, as we were expecting my cousins John and Mary Ann, along with their son Aidan, to arrive later in the evening. They had just completed an epic journey from Vancouver to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Mumbai, and then Mumbai to Cochin, all in the space of 48 hours. Now cooking a meal for 8 people on a two burner propane cooker with two pots and a small frying pan is definitely a challenge, but we were up for it. First, I assembled the veg biryani. Next came the spicy potatoes. Then I got to work breaking down the two ducks I had bought at the market the day before. This was no Safeway duck. They were rather complete, to say the least. The feathers had been removed, but that was the extent of the butcher's work. In a scene that bore a passing resemblance to the film "Caligula", I found myself probing the inner recesses of two ducks with my hands in order to extract the tiddley bits, which were still very much attached. My efforts were rewards with two entire duck livers, which I cooked along with the duck. The ducks themselves were scrawnier than the breeds that we get in Vancouver, but they were sure big on flavour. Adding a few tablespoons of black pepper to several minced shallots, ginger, garlic, and turmeric, the duck braised in the pot for a couple of hours. This formed a thick and spicy gravy. The duck is then removed from the pot, and fried piece by piece to crisp up the skin. Then its returned to the sauce after reducing it.

Next up was a kilo of fresh prawns fried with curry leaves, turmeric, shallots, green chili, garlic, lots of black pepper, chunks of coconut, and butter. John and Mary Ann finally managed to locate us via auto-rickshaw at around 7:30, and we sat down to eat our decidedly non-traditional Christmas meal shortly after arrival. It was great to have family at Christmas! The poor buggers were severely jet-lagged though, and shortly after dinner I walked them back to the main road to flag down an auto-rickshaw to take them back to a well-deserved rest. Returning home, I discovered that my good buddy Doug had called us. We were thrilled to discover that we could actually video chat with each other using iChat on our laptops! We took turns walking around with our wireless laptops showing the details of our surroundings. As I said in an earlier post, the broadband internet has changed things here...

So now we will divide our time between showing our cousins around the town and surrounding area, and trying to line up a production schedule for the next month or so. The hard part is done, so let the fun begin!

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