by Kaveri Ponnapa
A friend recently asked me why ‘The Coorg Table™’? Why had I chosen the name for my blog, she asked, when there was so much more to it than just the ‘table’? She had answered her own question, really. The table in Coorg stretches far beyond food, into the heart of the community. It stretches into its love for great cooking and fresh, seasonal produce, with a sharp eye on all that the land has to offer. It’s a table that extends into a love for sharing, and the famous Coorg hospitality, one that welcomes strangers to enjoy a meal with the family, and makes sure that no one leaves the house without eating first. Unexpected guests and visitors are always asked to share the meal that has been cooked for the day. Inviting them is a gesture that creates a bond of warmth and friendship that is hard to describe.
My grandmother’s massive dining table, covered in oilcloth, extended almost the entire length of the dining room, vast enough to seat batches of grandchildren, uncles, aunts and uncounted guests. No matter how many people turned up for a meal, the table seemed to expand to accommodate them all; dishes of curry just grew deeper, and platters of vegetables seemed to replenish themselves. It was a functional table, set with Bengal Pottery crockery and robust cutlery that could stand up to boisterous grandchildren. Sometimes it was unrecognizable: grand, gracious, dressed up by the aunts in white damask with matching napkins, pretty plates and flowers. But it was best loved as the focal point of gatherings of family, visitors and friends –noisy, chaotic and unstinting in its generosity.
The tiny, round table in my mother-in-law’s home, with its familiar, much-washed checked table cloth was a complete contrast; but I would guess that just as many people once sat around it as did at my grandmother’s. There was always a flow between the kitchen and dining room, and the women of the family maintained a delicate balance taking turns to make sure that everyone was fed, and that they ate well too.
The table is where we gather to remember the seasons and what they have to offer; to bring out that treasured bottle of pickle; share our stories that make us laugh or cry. This is where recipes are exchanged, stamped with the personalities of the women who created them, travelling from house to house and down the generations; where children learn the taste of tradition –and the land –and that a little goes a long way, served with love. This is where the offerings of the landscape and kitchen gardens find their way into those special dishes we all long for when we are far from home. Festive food, everyday fare, feasts, celebrations and indulgences, this is where memories are made. Here, we remember the generations that went before us, and the foods they once loved: and everything they worked for that has made it possible for us to sit around this table, sharing a meal.
Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa
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.