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Serendipity Arts Festival: Triggering memories with food

twitter-logoPTI | December 21, 2018 | Updated 18:42 IST

By Trisha Mukherjee Panaji, Dec 21 (PTI) Does a steaming cup of masala chai on a cold rainy evening remind you of monsoons back home? Does a plate of hot Maggi take you back to the days of midnight snacking in the hostel? It is this power of food to trigger memories that Rahul Akerkar attempted to explore and exploit in his stint as co-curator of the culinary arts segment at the Serendipity Arts Festival here. According to the chef and founder of the Indigo chain of restaurants, every individual has a "relationship" with food, and what one consumes impacts the way they live, imparting a range of "endless experiences". "Food should always take you somewhere... either it should evoke memories from the past or form the basis for memories to come," Akerkar told PTI. His choice of ingredients for the experiment is quotidian -- honey, coffee, tea and spices, kitchen staples in any home. For every ingredient, Akerkar along with experts working on or with the product, conducted interactive and informative workshops, in an almost classroom like set up. The discussions included its origins and functions, all this while letting the audience taste variants of honey and coffee and tea. In the honey workshop conducted by Vijaya Pastala, a social entrepreneur working towards improving farming livelihoods in the country, participants were provided with six types of honey, which they tasted and then filled up a form describing their very first feeling about it. While some pointed out the thick texture, a sweet fruity aftertaste, others eagerly came up with their guesses, some saying the honey was made from jamun and others litchi. As Pastala approved some assessments and dismissed others, participants flooded her with questions- "Is the honey spoilt if it is crystallises?", "Can the colour of the honey be determined from the bees that produce it?" "The idea was to explore how we taste and smell the ingredients that go into our food. We chose these ingredients because they were simple enough so that everybody could associate with them. "At the same time, they also allowed people to understand the whole process of taste and smell, as well as the vocabulary that explains these differences," Akerkar said. The spice workshop was more experiential. Akerkar created what he calls a spice lab where one could find an array of Indian spices — dhaniya, turmeric, methi, pepper corns, along with the traditional "sil-batta" (mortar and pestle). The Spice Lab offered a multi-sensory experience, exploring the way spices are combined for use in cooking -- whether through dry rubs, wet grinds, oil tempering, or infusions, while also allowing visitors to share their own taste and smell memories. As part of the workshop, visitors were encouraged to choose any of the ingredients, make their own spices, take in the aroma and pen down a memory that it triggers. They could also choose to put their spice-mix in a test tube, take it home, and cook something with it. "Pretty much everything we eat has a memory associated to it, and we wanted people to actually think about what they’re eating. "The idea was to make it a conscious experience, to intellectualize the process to a certain extent, rather than just going through the motions of eating," Akerkar said. The segment also had a session titled, "#Foodstagram" that sought to offer an insight on professional depiction and critique of food. The Serendipity Arts Festival comes to a close on Saturday. PTI TRS MIN MIN

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