by Kaveri Ponnapa
The English food writer, Jane Grigson, remarked: " It could be said that European civilization – and Chinese civilization too – has been founded on the pig… cooked and cured from snout to tail." While we may not venture to say quite the same of Coorg, our hunting festival of Keilpolud, our harvest at Puthari, our weddings – in fact, almost every celebration would not be the same without a dish of pork. It could be a classic pandi curry, or small cubes of preserved pork, cooked in its own fat, or morsels of smoky flavoured roast pork, blazing with the flavours of bird's eye chillis whatever the favourite, pork makes the occasion.
The hefty wild boar that roamed the once dense forests of Coorg, with its family of deliciously striped piglets was a formidable adversary, respected by every Coorg hunter. Intelligent, cunning and terrifyingly strong, generations of hunting experience is summed up in a simple adage: 'do not stand in the path of a charging boar.' Wild boar meat was much sought after, and once its sharp bristles were smeared with mud, and burnt off in a fire built up with grass, there was plenty to be done with the meat, both fresh and dried. There were as many stories about wild boars, as there were hunters in Coorg, but one day, the wildlife laws changed everything.
The end of hunting did not mean the end of pork on the table, though. My mother -in -law, like many Coorg women, reared pigs. Large, well-fed and active, they ambled around, familiar figures, until one day, they vanished. This happened at regular intervals, and no one quite asked where they went, preferring to maintain a discreet silence on the topic. She once had an adorable pair of piglets, oddly – named Jack and Jill, who became a great favourite with the grandchildren of the house. The children would run across to the pigsty every day, the littlest one, my daughter, sitting on the wall, while the boys played with, and often teased the piglets. One day the boys were chased fiercely around the sty by the piglets, and quickly gave up teasing them. When Jack and Jill disappeared some time later, I worried about what explanation to offer the children; but no one asked too many questions. The Coorg passion for that dish of sultry pandi curry on the table, that bottle of pork pickle to take back home after the holidays, triumphed over recently made farmyard friendships.
Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.
Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa