I recently hosted my second "Planting an Edible Garden" workshop with around 15 kids at Galleryske, Bangalore. The age group ranged from 3-8 years and I began with a story telling session of "A Garrulous Gastronauts' Guide". My audience was quite engaged and interactive during the book reading, giving their inputs and opinions about the meanings of words and the characters. While explaining the concept of food miles (the distance our food travels from farm to plate) I was correctly informed about travel routes from Bangalore to America, right down to where I might have to take a connecting flight!
We then broke for a delicious brownie break (chocolate and beetroot whole wheat brownies courtesy Aashti) before starting on our planting session. I had pre-soaked coriander and fenugreek / methi seeds for the participants to plant. Everyone got a big terra-cotta pot for the coriander and a smaller one for the methi. We dug into a large pile of red soil with our bare hands to ready the pots for planting. I remember as a child I loved playing in sand pits, gardening with my grand uncle and splashing around in puddles. It's unfortunate to see how so many kids now days shy away from getting a little dirty. Is it parents who are encouraging their children to become germ-phobes or TV commercials going on about kitanos that cause so much damage? I hope the present and future generation of children reach for a pile of mud instead of a bottle of hand sanitizer every now and then.
After planting the seeds everyone watered and hand drew labels for their pots with much gusto. I hope everyone is watering their pots regularly…
Before the parents came we all sat down for a light lunch of pasta, lime juice and fruit salad. I was quite disheartened when some of the previously eager participants refused to eat. When I reminded them that to be food explorers like Cheeku they would have to try out all types of food with enthusiasm instead of being encouraged, I was clearly told what their food preferences were and how they know exactly what they liked and disliked.
I think it's our responsibility as adults, whether parents, older siblings, aunts, uncles to be more open minded and enthusiastic about the world around us, especially around the children in our lives. In the mean time I'll definitely try and work on my workshop to make Cheeku's ideals have a bit more of an impact!
I recently had the opportunity to visit my alma mater- SahyadriSchool, KFI based outside Pune placed atop a three pointed hill! I studied there
from the 5th to 10th grade and basically grew up among
friends and caring teachers. While in Sahyadri I did a book reading of “A
Garrulous Gastronaut’s Guide” with the class 4 and 5 students- and my feelings
may be biased but they were the liveliest and most enthusiastic bunch I ever
The kids loved Cheeku and were excited about the prospect of
starting gastronaut clubs of their own. They said they would try planting seeds
from the oranges they were going to get at tea time and try convincing their
house parents and class teachers to let them try their hand at cooking. These
kids were pretty used to activities like gardening and the school campus even
has its own vermiculture hut and bio-gas station!
Since this was also the oldest batch I’ve ever read to they
were familiar with terms like organic and eco-friendly.
The students also liked
the illustrations and wished me the best of luck with trying to get the book
published. Some even signed the Gastronaut Manifesto at the end of the book to
prove their commitment to me. The overall experience was wonderful and made me
want to visit again to facilitate Gastronaut activities with the junior school
students... perhaps sometime soon!
For my first official post of the New Year (yes I know it’s
very late!) I want to share one of my favourite experiences from Kolkatta. Though
I was born there, I don’t have much of an attachment to the city and try my best to
limit my visits there as the weather doesn’t agree with me at all! However,
there is one thing that Kolkatta is renowned for- and that is cheap and delicious
food, and while its fantastic to savour all the gastronomic delights (phuchka and egg rolls anyone?), I find it even more fun to shop at the local
Fish that is so fresh it still wriggles around in the metal
tank like trays... tiger prawns so big I mistook them for lobsters at first, and
my absolute favourite- hilsa. Pronounced ilish
in Bengali, this fish is very hard to come by, quite expensive and full of
teeny tiny bones that you have to expertly remove or suffer. This sea fish that
lays its eggs in large rivers is usually caught in the Padma river and imported
from Bangladesh. It tastes best when cooked in a light mustard sauce.
Even the vegetables in Kolkatta are more vibrant and I
always discover something new during my jaunts to buy special produce that you don’t
get in Bangalore- large lemons that have the most delicious fragrance,
kind of like keffir limes, or jaggery made of palm sugar. This time I came
across fat chillies that were dark purple and looked quite similar to
Another favourite are these tiny shops that sell all sorts of candy like condiments,- I visited one in Lake Market.
They also sold puffed rice balls coated with jaggery and other sweet assortments.
These stores are tiny and hard to navigate but so much fun.