Early Monday afternoon, January 11th, saw us arriving at the Elephant Court resort in Thekkady, a town still in Kerala but very near the border of Tamil Nadu. The elevation is around 3,500 feet. What a difference the altitude makes. Now it makes perfect sense why the ruling folks of India be they indigenous people or colonizers headed to the hills when summer arrived. As for me, I was happy to head to the hills even though it was winter.
After a late but large, buffet lunch, we went to a spice plantation to see what the big deal was with this part of the world way back when; why everyone over the centuries wanted a piece of the action Spice is the answer, of course, and we discovered during our visit that black pepper was initially the big draw. Black pepper is indigenous to this part of India, as is cardamom; and black pepper was much in demand as a food preservative back in the days before Frigidaires. As it so happens, however, the climate in this part of India is perfect for many spices that originated elsewhere, which is why cinnamon, ginger, allspice, turmeric, vanilla and cacao to name but a few are now cultivated extensively. Okay, okay, maybe vanilla and cacao aren’t spices but they taste good and we do use them in baking so let’s not get too technical here.
The visit was excellent and our guide, Taj, was a delight as he rattled off the Latin names of the plants and challenged us to play name that spice as he plunked bits and pieces of vegetation into our palms. The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, was the enormous snake skin we found on the ground as we walked among the plants. I think all of us were feeling a little jumpy thinking that the creature that crawled out of that coat might be dangling about over our heads.
The trip ended with a visit to the spice shop, which means that spice plantations in India aren’t all that different from the Tate Modern in London. This was the first time I bought bags of spices that told me when the spice had been harvested and processed. And speaking of things that are not spices but are grown here and taste better than anything back home, I had to buy a small bag of the cashews. It’s going to be difficult going home to healthy eating.