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dimanche 24 décembre 2017

FORT COCHIN FOODIE SEEN IS GETTING BETTER FARMERS CAFE FACING PARADE GROUND

I have a photograph of Cochin taken in 1932 when it was literally a backwater village. Backwaters here in Kerala has another connotation which commemorates the birth of Cochin in 1341 by the cataclysm which dammed the Periyar River at Cranganore and burst open the barriers of the Sea at Kochangadi and created both the backwaters as well as the navigable city of Fort Cochin 
The origin of the name "Kochi" is thought to be from the Malayalam word kochu azhi, meaning 'small lagoon'. Yet another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word Kaci, meaning "harbour. 
Cochin rose to international fame in the 15th century with the arrival of the great admiral Zheng He, who left behind the Chinese Fishing Nets amidst many other souvenirs of his visits.
Backpack tourism discovered Fort Cochin and its narrow streets, air full of the spices sold and bartered here in the 1980s. With this onslaught as well as the accompanying Kashmiri trader invasion began to decrease the charm of the once quaint village by the sea.
To cater for the backpackers, a lower quality eating culture was developed: cheap spaghetti, and other imitation western foods and it left a legacy of Low Quality Food in the tourist part of this burgeoning town, now graced by visits by Cruise Ships as well. 
For Foodies, this ported disaster. Along the Princess street the main Backpacker hangout, all restaurants began offering large quantities of cheap food. Until the advent of upscale tourism, which to this day is very limited in Fort Cochin, and the introduction of upscale fusion cuisine at expensive tariffs, one was left to eat with mediocre imitation food in the tourist section.
I was fortunate to meet a local foodie who would ferry me across the lagoon to very good restaurants which served Kerala Food in Ernakulum which is a major city.
Niyati Boutique Hotel is a newcomer on the scene to cater for people who do not wish to resort to backpacker style living or eating, and the owner recommended that I eat at Farmers Cafe which is just across the street from Niyati Boutique Hotel, along the post office, facing the Parade Ground. The restaurant is housed in a Dutch era building which used to be a bank and later a school, but a substantial building at its time, possibly the house of high functionary of the Dutch East Indian Company.
I was met at the door by Mr. Farooq who is the manager of the establishment who turned out to be well versed in the budding art scene in around the area. He had met other Cuban visitors, who had come in connection with Cinema and I recommended him that he think of a Cuban Film Festival perhaps at the same time at the Biennale 2018!
I enjoyed walking around the interior and took my seat upstairs and looked at the menu.

The varied menu, sculptured for a western palate, could be classified as Fusion South Indian Cuisine. I thought of the other Fusion Cuisine restaurants I have eaten at, more recently along the Amazon River at Leticia at El Cielo.
Mr. Farooq receommended Sea Food Thali with Mackerel and Shrimp with the usual accoutrements.

 The Shrimp portion was delivious and the Maquerau was grilled and tasted healthy. I slurped on the vegetable accompaniments, the restaurant accesses its vegies from its own farm or other organic farms locally.
I had briefly talked to Mr. Farooq about Cuba and our egalitarian system. He kindly offered me the Fish curry which the staff consumes, and it was delicious, albeit being a little on the piquant side..
Very attentive service, very reasonably priced.
(I made a mental note that the entire delicious meal cost me less than a Cafe Longe et Croissant at Cafe de Opera in Paris)
I have two brothers who are foodies as well, one specialising in Japanese fare. He came to Fort Cochin with me one year ago and at that time Farmers Cafe did not exist.
The younger brother who enjoys fusion cuisine from all over the world and has an appreciative outlook on food, hopes to come here with me on my next visit. 
I am sure one of our first meals would be at the Farmers Cafe. The cafe faces the Parade Ground as well as the venerable St Francis Catholic Church where Vasco da Gama was buried, before his body taken to Lisboa for burial in the The Monastery of Jeronimo. (there is a well known pastry shop nearby, selling the well known Pasteis do Belem).

There is an interesting story on how this church was saved from destruction, which I have chronicled before.
Being Protestant, the new rulers of Fort Cochin did not pay much attention to the Catholic shrines dotted over the landscape. The Dutch captain ordered an Indian soldier to light the dynamite which had been placed inside the church where Vasco Da Gama had been buried at one time.
The wick of the dynamite extended into the parade ground and the soldier had flame in his hand to light it, but he broke down and conffessed to the sympathetic Dutch Captain: Sir, my parents were married in this church and I cannot bring myself to blow it up. The captain took pity and left the church intact for us to enjoy