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A Little More Than Just A Table

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.

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is a widely published independent writer on food, wine and heritage, based in Bengaluru. Her features appear in leading publications. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Thank you very much, Nanditha. I hope this post brought back some memories for you of tables in Coorg. Do keep visiting these pages. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  1. Kaverappa Padeyanda says:

    Yes, it’s really true most of things were exchanged at dining table, all the family members, guests, used to sit around dining table. Lots of serious things also discussed in funny way. I can feel that laughter, the discussions, that curiosity while hearing talks. that was not only a table it was a place where strong bonding was happening. But now everyone is busy with work, lost many people, no time to sit and eat together..we are not going to get those fine days. Thanks for your writing which makes us to recollect those days…some time it brings tears when we recollect the memory of those days. As always, wonderful writing with lot of memories hidden in it….Thank you!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kaverappa, what you say is so true- sitting down to eat together,several generations at a time meant so much more than food, one of the best experiences in the world. Thanks for sharing your own memories, they enrich us all. I hope there will always be tables like the ones we all knew. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  2. Vidhya says:

    Awwww….dining table…indeed…if only they could speak…we would be reloaded with memories…beautiful post kaveri..☺

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Vidhya, that’s a lovely picture you painted of dining tables- I’m can imagine how many, many stories they would have to tell. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post. Do keep visiting these pages. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  3. Stanley Pinto says:

    Kaveri my dear. In my next incarnation I will insist on returning as one of your grandmother’s grandsons. Not too closely related to you, of course, because it isn’t just the Coorg Table that I shall be salivating over; but also a certain beautiful, talented, doe-eyed lady. Now let that be our secret.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      …and you know your way to that table, Shanthala…so come over as soon as you can, and we can all sit around it and enjoy a good dinner together. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  4. Jaya Mani says:

    Radhika, so glad you told me about your blog. Mesmerised. I shall go through each one of them soon. Congratulations! And the images & styling – ABSOLUTELY beautiful. Will tell friends.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Jaya, thank you very much for your appreciation- with your eye for beauty, I really value your comments even more. Please do keep visiting these pages, and yes, please do share with friends. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  5. Hina Gujral says:

    In Kumaoni culture dining table never played an important role but since childhood I always had this fascination to enjoy meals on a neatly arranged table using cutlery, napkins etc. With your post all my memories of innocent longing for meals around table were revived. And needless to say beautiful styling, photographs and gripping write up. Thanks, Hina

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Hina, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. The dining table came with the British to Coorg, and created it’s own culture built around the life on coffee plantations. It is interesting to see how two cultures mingled, and something different evolved. Every household had its own version of the dining table-some quite functional, and some very elaborate.Traditionally, we never sat on the floor to eat, but on low stools, and placed our food on another, slightly higher one to eat our meals. At weddings and feasts, we sat on high wooden benches, and ate off long wooden tables. It was very special, since every guest was served by members of the family. Somehow our weddings and feasts have never been the same since the caterers took over.Which just confirms my belief that there’s so much more to food than eating. Warm wishes, and do keep visiting these pages. Kaveri

  6. Neetha Rakesh Domalapalli says:

    Accidentally came across the blog. Mesmerised by the layout. Have a family dinner on Tuesday next. Will be trying out the Chicken curry and spicy meat balls. Thank You for this artistic space for food and cuisine.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Neetha, I am sure that you and your family will enjoy these two dishes that you have chosen to try out from The Coorg Table. They are both absolutely delicious, as well as being easy, tried and tested family recipes. Enjoy the blog, and keep writing in whenever you feel you want to share a thought. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  7. ASLESHA MADAPPA says:

    Lovely article and beautifully presented, Kaveri!
    The Coorg Table I recall from childhood is a loooooong bench in my Grandparent’s house, and also other homes we stayed. After a full day of playing outside in the fresh air, a hot bath in the traditional “Gudda”, when food was served on banana leaf or plates, it was mana from heaven!! We cousins fought over favorite pieces of meat, specially marrow bone! Stories were told, news of weddings and outside world was shared. We laughed and spoke at high pitch to be heard and each meal was a treat.
    Those were the days, so happy and informal, very earthy and honest, no inhibitions, absolute freedom to enjoy a meal interspersed with views and news!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Beautiful memories of the table, Asha, thank you for sharing, I love the part about fighting over the best pieces of meat, I had forgotten that :)! It added to the fun around the table, and reminded you to share-it was just as you say, earthy, honest and filled our lives with so much more than just meals. Do keep reading. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  8. Kishore says:

    The table, the table the table. Thats whats its all about. Generations, people, family; within and without. Hard to say; often it does not matter who, when , where or what.To quote Edward Lear:

    Said the Table to the Chair,
    ‘You can hardly be aware,
    ‘How I suffer from the heat,
    ‘And from chilblains on my feet…….

    Just a start to the rest of the field……………….

    God Bless ! Your blog is ever so good as always !!
    Kishore

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kishore, this is an absolutely delightful share. And yes, it’s always the table, isn’t it? How can it ever be otherwise! Thank you very much for reading, and even more for writing this. Warm wishes. Kaveri

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