At the Taj Vivanta, Panaji… pretty Christmas tree with Bethlehem crib, Santa Claus, decorations everywhere to remind guests and all who drop in that it is that time of the year again to rejoice in the timeless story of Lord Jesus. And also to buy some Christmas goodies!
BY TARA NARAYAN
THE classic range of Goan sweets is one thing, the hampers currently being packed by just about any caterer in his/her wisdom is another! The luxury hotels have always specialized in hampers of course and over the years I’ve seen some interesting baskets, wooden boxes, nice sacks and sachets and boxes (worth hanging on to or distributing to whoever)…of course, you may make your own choices and these Christmas I notice folk are doing hampers of exclusively home-made wines, jams – orange marmalade – including some of the Goan sweets which are a favorite: Slabs of buttery bebinca, the pillow of dark dodol, crunchy kulkuls and cormorants and nevris, baathic and I always get carried away by the lovely snowy looks of the gonz or teis de aranha (“tears of the spider” if you please, do spiders cry or weep over their victims?)…then plum cake and Christmas cake and plum pudding!
Have I forgotten anything in the Christmas tray of goodies which in the old days I recall used to come on very nice Christmas scene scenery plates and at these you do not throw away or give away but recycle as and when you want to cheer up something. I’d gladly give the one and only one I have with a Christmas tree motif to someone who loves me dearly!
Then doce de grao can be memorable and something I can never resist as long as it has a soft golden touch and not too sugary – jujubes, how can I forget rose cookies and bolinha which I first discovered in the Morning Star bakery once long ago on holidays in Margao! I fell in love with bolinha and took packets back to Mumbai that was Bombay. Look for softly crusty bolina outside and flavorful with coconut inside.
Okay, no more Christmas goodies talk! But I must tell you I did go looking for the German Christmas time sweet bread called stollen (or Christstollen) which is stuffed with nuts, spices and dry or candied fruit – it’s Germany’s traditional bread during Christmas time. It’s become popular in Goa too in recent years. I finally found it listed as “stolen bread” on a five-star hotel patisserie menu …the idea of “stolen bread” tickled my sense of the absurd and I couldn’t help laughing at the spelling goof-up! Print media has its moments with such hilarious goof-ups in the English language but I won’t go into that now. Which reminds me to tell you here that if you’re looking for a hamper don’t hesitate to drop by at either the Marriott or Taj Vivanta in Panaji – both are doing hampers and the Taj Vivanta lobby itself has sample hampers on view these days and a menu posted so you may place your order. Their cake lounge Caramel is still not activated but the Christmas tableaus here and there are charming and one may of course gather grace at Latitude while waiting for one’s hamper to be done.
AT the Marriott I find there’s a tendency to be a little health conscious and one may even put in a little bottle of olive oil or turmeric honey (the latest in health foods!) or feta cheese or a premium mineral water bottle like Kalzai! If one wished a wine maybe, along with Goan caju or almond marzipan and the rest of the dry fruit which comes fresh from the Kashmiri dry fruit markets of winter time Delhi. One may be as Goan or as European or as Indian as one wishes – but for some reason this year I’m looking for dark purple mulberries from Panchgani or Mahabaleshwar, don’t ask me why. I just came across some mulberry bushes growing at a place at Caranzalen where I’ve taken to dropping in to chat with my friend Golda Ana Gonsalves – this is at Mofet or Food at Mofet (a joint venture by Golda and Desiree Mendes) if you like where a Punjabi dhaba styled ambience rules in the evenings and yes, they do some good kebebs here, including vegetarian ones; and of course dal makhani, with tandoori roti, naan, etc. I’m told they also do the perfect kathi roll here. Check it out. Mofet, incidentally, is a famous name in Goa for pickles and especially tendli pickle. Must find out more about this label.
Anyway, while sitting here at Mofet’s (next to New Sheetal udipi) one evening I spied a mulberry bush growing nearby and couldn’t believe my eyes. Then Golda told me actually mulberry grows very well in Goa, so then why don’t farmers grow them? It’s a question I’d like to ask my friends Peter Fernandes (permaculturist in Assagao, has the most fascinating wild farm I’ve ever seen) or Nestor Rangel (can listen to him for hours) or Miguel Braganza (encyclopedia of farming knowledge) or Daniel Dsouza (has a charming manner with all kinds of flower arrangements!) or Nevil Alphonso (Goa’s most experienced and seasoned director of agriculture)….mulberries are something divine in flavor and packed with antioxidants enough to stop all that ageing inflammation destroying my telomeres and turning my arteries to concrete!
If you can find mulberries buy them quick…best is to grow them for your own personal consumption naturally. Although Mother Earth is so generous that there’s usually enough to share and live in harmony with one another. Like old man Gandhi said there’s always enough for need but not enough for greed! On that note may you enjoy your Christmas and New Year coming up and don’t be careless, Covid-19 is not ready to leave us yet and is hovering around as if to say, you better watch it you human piles of insecure da da da or like Lord Yama I’ll come for you even before you’re ready to say goodbye cruel earth.