KENELM SANTANA LOPES | A few days ago, we had a few friends over a dinner. Circumstances have recently given us charge of the kitchen, and in true male pattern absent mindedness, I forgot to buy potatoes for the egg and potato salad I was making. In desperation, I picked a pack of odd-looking potato-like roots, commonly called ‘Katt-kangam’, that someone had sent. Boiled them, peeled them and substituted them for potatoes. The result – a salad far superior and richer in taste than the original.
The incident piqued my interest and I made an attempt at discovering what other such ‘root style’ vegetables are available. One source was a Facebook post making the inquiry. The other was a trip to the Panjim vegetable market, where the good Goan lady vendors found much amusement in a six foot plus, affluent looking (read fat) and clueless person asking questions, the answers to which they have known for generations.
Some astonishing facts came to light: there are over half a dozen different root style vegetables that are consumed in Goa. Possibly, their consumption pre-dates the Portuguese, and is today limited to the people in rural areas, or a few who remember. While Catholics have traditionally been not very good at ‘eating’ their vegetables, even Hindus today are forgetting this part of our food heritage.
Some of these include Suran or Surlo (Elephant foot yam), Madi (Taro Root), Zhadd-kangam, Karande and Chirko, in addition to the more common Katt-kangam. I got a gawdi lady who works for us to cook some of these. Some are fried, the others are cooked, some made into kebabs and some combined with prawns or meat. Each of them superb in taste and obviously far more nutritive than our Belgaum imports.
Does our obsession with bell peppers, rosemary and broccoli from the cook shows we watch lead us to forget what was probably cooked in our kitchens for hundreds of years?
The flood of ‘hybrid’ vegetables and fruits from Belgaum and other areas have drowned the traditional local produce; and when these are forgotten, a part of our heritage is lost, a market for them dies; the need to farm and cultivate them is lost. Lost with them again is the variety of nutrients, vitamins and health benefits that are perhaps even yet to be discovered.
When we talk of Goenkarponn then, surely it cannot be limited to an attempt to keep outsiders out. It should also be an effort to keep and preserve aspects unique to our identity. In this special case, requires us to get back to our roots….literally.
Pics Courtesy – JoeGoaUK