Friday, November 2, 2012

Food Doesn't Come More Local Than This...

Having finally found a bit of time and some spare internets, I thought I should update you with how we're eating here in Urbana School, Lokanthali.

Firstly, simply due to the costs of transport and buying anything through a 'middle-man', food is grown as locally as possible, there are rice paddies dotted around throughout the town of Lokanthali and quite a few just next door to the school. But most of our veg is grown within the compound itself, we have two vegetable patches, so let me show you around!


These are our two veg patches. We're growing rice and potatoes and onions and garlic and radish and a few other crops which don't translate so well....


Between the potato furrows can be found sprouting radishes and also the 'green leafy vegetable' as it has come to be known (somewhat like spinach). The veg on the right, I have no idea what it is, other than it occasionally appears on our plates and has a spiky skin! These were bought from a nieghbour.


There is also a fair share of livestock nearby. There are chickens (hens and roosters) which supply new chickens and eggs, and meat, respectively. Currently we have a whole load of fortnight-old chickens running around the place which is amusing. Also we have a couple of cows nearby - these are never eaten, in fact are sacred in Hinduism (we'll be blessing them next week as part of Diwali) but produce the milk that forms part of many meals and snacks.

Goat meat is very common here and frequently there are herds of goats just wandering around, getting in the way. But I think that most of these got slaughtered during Dasain (last week) as I haven't seen many for a while!

Despite this ready supply of meat, we are living a mostly vegetarian diet here, all cooked very well by our cook Romela who does our 3 meals a day as well as cooking for all the kids a number of times a day. She understands compliments like 'meeto chha!' (very tasty) and is generally content with a smile, a 'namaste' (hello) and a 'danyebatt' (thank you).

Here, Alfie and I enjoy our twice-daily dal bhat (lentil soup, curried veg and rice) which sort of varies on a week and availability basis and is always delicious, even though we have now been eating it for lunch and dinner for 3 weeks on the trot.... Breakfast is sometimes instant noodles or fruit & nut porridge but generally served with a boiled egg!

Last week, the rice paddy on just the other side of the wall, where Adi and his family live, was being harvested so I went to lend a hand before I started work:

The rice was cut near the base by these exciting curved knives, then stacked into bundles and tied up. These were then beaten against a stone to extract the rice and will later be threshed to remove the husks. It's a mostly manual process - I've seen one of these threshers, it is pedal-powered and very evil looking!


The rice harvested here is quite 'strong', Adi explained that it fills you up quickly. So it is going to be turned into beaten rice, where each grain is beaten flat then served raw to have the dal soaked into it. We've tasted some now - it has a texture like very small cornflakes but is certainly tasty.

And of course, when we've had enough of the dal bhat, we can always take the bus into Thamel and relax at one of the many restaurant/bars on offer. Our favourite is the Buddha bar - here you can see Donnie, Alfie, Jeanette and me enjoying a drink and some good food (and a Sheesha) by candlelight. All for about a fiver.

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