Sunday, 7 June 2009

Jackfruits, Fake Notes and Coffee

My Blog pages are looking very boring so here are some photos to brighten things up a little. Firstly, this is a Jackfruit tree on the road down to Kovalam Beach. These are the largest tree-borne fruits in the world and can be up to 36kg in weight, according to Wikipedia. 36kg!! That's half my body weight!!!!

The neighbours sometimes bring me a bowl of the fruit for supper - the segments are yellow, about the size of a date, and have a large single smooth seed which is very easy to remove. The flesh is about 5mm thick and tastes pleasant enough - I guess my Western palate finds it slightly strange but it's quite edible. Anyway, these fruits are ripening around about now and will soon be falling off the trees. I don't want to be standing below when that happens!

By the way, Kovalam Beach and the surrounding tourist area is one of the few places where the streets are cleaned. The broom this woman is using is like those used in many homes, made from the spines of coconut leaves, stripped by hand with a sharp knife while green, and then left to dry. The grandmother next door makes them and sells them wholesale for Rs2.5 each - or about 3p!

When I was in Trivandrum recently, in a dingy back street shop, I spotted this sign advertising Fake Note Machines. My immediate thought was that it was for printing money! Surely not? But in India anything is possible! Or could a "Fake Note" be the name of some piece of paper - like a "Sick Note" perhaps? But no, sadly, the answer is totally prosaic. It's for detecting counterfeit bank notes. How boring! Obvious really, but it gave me some fun speculating!

Finally, this is part of Clive's India Survival Kit. For eight months now I've been passing a couple of coffee stalls in Chalai Market in Trivandrum where they roast coffee beans. The smell is irresistible and I have this compulsion to inhale deeply and walk slowly whenever I pass them. But up until recently I had no way to make decent coffee at home - I didn't want pre-ground beans because half the flavour would be gone before I drank it. Nor did I want to invest in a special percolator, coffee grinder, cafetiere or filter system because I have no idea how much use I'd get from them and also because I'm a bit of a skinflint. The solution was simple: my mate Chris Gowers suggested the mortar and pestle, and I found a muslin filter of the type used by Chai Wallahs everywhere. Easy! And now I can make absolutely fantastic coffee from the fresh, locally grown beans. Heaven! The fact that the power's gone off and I've lost light, cooling and Internet for the umpteenth time today, and it's peeing down outside, matters not one iota! Which reminds me, I wonder when the gas cylinder's going to run out...

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