Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Goan Culinary Club

My mother-in-law was a fabulous cook, where my father in law was concerned, Masci needs no mention – he was and still is world renowned. The previous generation seems to have got their cooking right and today in Goa try as we might the modern generation cannot replicate that taste. So how does one preserve and promote the ‘authenticity’ of Goan cuisine for generations to come? How does one create a participative platform for those serving Goan cuisine to sit together and discuss the ‘need’ to standardise recipes to get the ‘true’ taste of Goa? The Goa Chapter of the Goan Culinary Club is born.  
Enter Mr Rene Baretto and wife Maria who conceptualised the Global Goan Club in 2000. This year their vision was to initiate the Culinary aspect in Goa.  And from this interaction with Odette and Joe Mascarenhas as co-founders, and members, Sylvester D’Souza, Sheela Bar and Restaurant, Michael Mascarenhas, Flying Dolphin, Peter Fernandes, O Coqueiro, Edia Cotta, Chef Alila Diva, Master Chef Rego of the Taj, Executive Chef Sunil Kumar of Mariotts Resorts and Spa, Sunil Mathai of Resort Rio and Executive Chef Prasad Paul of Cidade de Goa, the movement took off. Several other like-minded Goans like food historians and authors Maria Lourdes Costa Bravo and Fatima Gracias, Ms Parvish Kamat to mention a few,  are also a part of the club
Does the fault only lie in Goan homes where Goan cuisine competes with Continental, Thai, Chinese and more popular Indian cuisine to win favour with the younger generation. Is the fault with public eating places – shacks, restaurants and hotels. Could ‘home cooked recipes bring out the much needed ‘ethos’ of Goan culture that professional establishments would find hard to emulate?
So “What is authentic Goan food?” I ask myself, ‘Do even we Goans have an idea?” Each individual household based on the food he/she has been brought up on believes that ‘mother knows best’ and yet when it comes to sharing of recipes there is a resistance to expose ‘secret’ ingredients which they believe works its own magic. And hence ‘authenticity’ of the cuisine is lost in the shuttle cock version of the concept of Hindu Goan, Christian Goan, North Goan and South Goan.
 I believe that in some restaurants and star hotels in Goa there is a modified version of Goan preparation- more suitable to the foreign or the non-Goan palate. Do other countries modify their preparations when you visit them? Would a steak and kidney pie be spiced to suit the Indian palate? Or a risotto made to resemble a khitchdi when one visits Italy?

Moreover young Goan chef’s training in the industry do not want to specialise in Goan cuisine. Why? There is no scope for ‘growth’ in their careers when they focus on Goan cuisine. Most of the star hotels have Italian, Mediterranean, Chinese, Grrek and even Arabic cuisine featurd on their the ‘new’ generation would rather want to learn to cook these preparations to enhance their career prospects.
With all this pent up emotions, when Rene and Maria Baretto, co-founders of the Global Goan Club, a club that links Goan Associations  all over the world and keeps Goan all over updated about what is happening with the community, approached us to preserve and promote Goan cuisine, it was a meeting of minds on the same wavelength.
The aim of this club is to educate people in what is authentic Goan cuisine while promoting the same worldwide.
I believe it is mportant to revive the pride we have in our food, But first w have decided to convince professionals in the food industry to standardise the taste of Goan food. After all they are our ambassadors of cuisine to the visiting world.
For starters the club has standardised the reichado masala, Xacutti , and the famous prawn curry. Caldin and Cafreal are on the list next.
At the club gatherings, chefs from various hotels and restaurants interact with ‘foodie’  locals who bring in the flavour of the month for ‘blind’ tasting. The process is impartial before finally zeroing on what they and the panel think is the most authentic taste, It is a great platform because I am informed that five star chefs are now taking the initiative to go to homes of local ladies to learn the entire process of cooking Goan dishes right from the choosing of the ingredients, to making of the masala, to the final preparation.
To preserve the cuisine to carry on to the next generation, which is programmed to follow logical measures, then standardising measures is a must. So winning ‘curries’ will be showcased and documented for posterity.
The club also hopes to create a data base to obtain ‘local’ authentic produce for the preparation of the dishes. Strictly by invitation only (people who have authentic preparations could contact the co founders), the club’s aims and objectives evolve around the ethos of the culture of Goa.
Although many regional cuisines the world over are closely guarded to maintain authenticity and proprietary rights, the ‘global’ cuisines are standardised to create a platform of learning. Right now many authentic recipes prepared at home are closely guarded, their recipes seldom divulged key secret ingredients or methods lost in the years to come. But for the sake of Goa and Goan cuisine a few like-minded individuals have got together to share their expertise and take time out to take ‘authentic’ Goan cuisine and give its rightful place in the world.

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