We are staying in Fort Cochin in the state of Kerala. The people here have opened their arms and showered us with kindness.
We found a home stay in a quiet location off the main drag. During our search for a place Jill stumbles across Hana’s Haven and looks at the room. It’s very clean, big and cheap, but that wasn’t the reason we chose this place. It was the buzz from smiles, laughter and welcoming arms. The family consists of Herman (dad), Norma (mum), Alton (25yr old son), Amanda (22yr old daughter) and Maria (the maid).
In the afternoon we spend a few hours with the Norman in the common area upstairs chatting. We discuss religion, schooling, life and death. He is a firm believer in helping and giving to others.
Jill spends Wednesday afternoon in the lounge room/sitting area of our families house chatting away and trying flour battered green chili’s (capsicum) with red chilli sauce. Herman informs me that the fish I saw him buy from the mobile fish man in the morning, 8 big, good quality fish, cost 120 rupees ($2.40). I mention I want to do a cooking class, so he offers me to cook with the maid, Maria, tomorrow after she has finished working for him. With some help, tomorrow morning I will be buying some fish from and then in the afternoon cook a delicious meal.
Then the afternoon gets better, Herman’s sister Avril invites us for dinner. Jill’s smile grows beyond her face and says yes. So while I write this blog I am eagerly awaiting leaving time… Only 10 minutes to go. I have my Sunday best on, which is white pants and a pink top and lipstick. And Matt is wearing a collared shirt. After telling Norman that in Australia we usually take something with us to a friends house for dinner he suggests ice cream.
We arrive at Greg and Avril’s house at 9pm (Indians eat dinner late) with our home stay family. Greg gives us a tour of their immaculate home. It is two storey with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms downstairs. Upstairs is an open room he tells us full of ‘stuff’. He proudly shows us his ducks, rooster, mango and coconut trees. The house is somewhat similar to ours but smaller bathrooms, and bedrooms are located in the same area. I thought mum was a clean freak, but they put you to shame. To their advantage they have a maid whom cooks and cleans for them.
Unsure of eating etiquette we nervously await some cues on what to do. In their household it’s exactly the same as home. Free game over the food and lots of chatting. Our Indian friends ate with their hands while we had a spoon. We still require practice in mastering the art. We had a mutton tripe curry, beef curry, prawn curry, eggplant and prawn curry, Dahl, rice, porotta (like nan breads) and some rice cake bread. It was all very delicious. The food is spicier and less creamier than the north.
Avril sadly says goodbye and gives her Skype details and asks to keep in touch. She also insists when we return we must come and stay with her.
Thursday morning Jill hears the fish man yelling, so jumps out of bed to meet Herman. But he’s still in bed. We miss the fish man but Herman said plenty more will come by. After some tea he decides we should head to the fish market instead. We discreetly watch from a distance as Herman barters a local price with the fish monger. He returns with 1kg of prawns and 1kg of fish for 300 rupees ($6).
During the day we trot off to the supermarket and local veggie market to buy the ingredients. No issues. Fresh produce cost 57 rupees ($1.20).
In the afternoon we meet Maria and start our cooking lesson. We make fish curry, prawn curry and another prawn curry with beans. We observe some very interesting and different cooking utensils such as a coconut grinder.
Maria is extremely proficient at scaling fish and removing the guts taking her less than 10 minutes to do 8 fish! Maria loves to cook and her favourite dish to make is fish curry. We learn good tips like after boiling rice is strained put it back on the heat for 10 seconds to remove any excess water.
After our food is cooked we share it with Alton and Amanda upstairs. Matt and I have smiles as we contently devour the food. Both of our favourites are the prawn curry. It is so rich and tasty. If any one wants the recipes shoot us an email and we will send through. There was so much food that we will be eating it for lunch tomorrow too.
Our original plan was to only stay two nights in Fort Cochin but it has extended to five nights because of the friendliness and love we have been receiving from the Nevis Family. Thank you very much for having us. And for everyone else we highly recommend coming here as this has been one of our highlights of India.