Thursday, May 04, 2017

Join me on a virtual Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal with JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort

Sorting Buransh (Rhondedron) Flowers. 
My fondest memories in life are centered around food and family. Alot of memories from my early life, were captured in my first book ‘A Pinch of This, A Handful of That’. But my culinary journey as a wife, daughter – in – law and mother are part of another yet to be published book on the food of Uttarakhand, filled with stories and recipes of  from the kitchen of our home in Dehra Dun, the kitchen garden and the women in my husband’s family from whom  I have inherited my knowledge.

Cooking in a Garhwali home.
Garhwali food has always been close to my heart. It is literally where my career in food began. My first piece of food writing was on on Garhwali cuisine. I am a Gujarati and I married a Garhwali. In doing so, I discovered a whole new cuisine. My pursuit of traditional recipes inspired my professional side and my eternal curiosity about cuisines, their roots, evolution, ingredients and preparations came to the fore. And I delved deeper and deeper into the history of Uttarakhand’s unique culinary culture.

So I am especially excited to share details of my latest project. This May, I am curating a Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal in association with JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa. It is a unique partnership intended to promote the cuisine of a region close to my heart through sustainable tourism.

At JW Cafe
Especially now, in the present scenario of international gastronomy. Currently,  Indian Cuisine is the flavor of the moment globally and closer home, regional cuisines are gaining recognition. Globally, there is an increasing interest in food that drives the choices travelers make when planning their trips. There is also a growing segment of travelers that are interested in culinary tourism and local food and flavours.

It has always bothered me is that while the many virtues Uttarakhand’s are so celebrated, its food, which is unique, barely gets any mention – if at all. Visitors to the state would be hard pressed to find local food anywhere unless they had access to a Garhwali home. This is a crying shame because the cuisine of Uttarakhand has so much going for it!

The Garhwali Thali at JW Cafe
Thankfully, this has begun to change, thanks to the JW Marriott Mussoorie. The management of this property have been active in the advancement of Mussoorie from the very inception of the property. Some of those efforts include planting walnut groves around the property, promoting the socioeconomic well-being of the locals, generating employment, working with local cooks and food producers to learn, document and promote Garhwali food. Sunil Kumar, Directorof F&B began with employing local women to come in everyday to make fresh Garhwali flatbreads, mandue (finger millet) ki roti, gehat parathas for the breakfast buffet, growing their own produce, making their own local pickles and recently introducing their  Garhwali thali. A laudable step towards showcasing Garhwali food to their guests.

With Chandrashekhar Joshi and Ramndeep Marwah 
In natural progression came the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal born of an idea sparked of by a simple bowl of gehat dal a year ago, between Chandrashekhar Joshi who was then GM of the property and me. And here we are! Our idea was to showcase Garhwali cuisine and culture to the world. And over the past year the team at JW Marriott Mussoorie (Sunil, Chef Sidharth, Vaidehi, Balbir) and I, with the support and backing of the new GM Ramandeep Marwah have worked together to research, document, trial and taste this cuisine  over many recces (Yep it was so much hard work!! LOL)

By the end we had put together an itinerary of unique experiences, village visits, step farming and a re-creation of Garhwali traditions and curated meals to showcase the cuisine, culture and heritage of Garhwal to food media from all over Indiabetween 29th  May to 1st  June 2017

Vendor of local ingredients
Our objective is to showcase these unexplored aspects to help boost tourism as well as to support local farmers and food producers.  Which is the other reason why I am really happy to be able to showcase Garhwali food at this point. Worldwide, there is a move toward returning to traditional foods and food ways. Slow, Organic, Local, Sustainable, Foraged are all catchwords in food trends globally. Juxtapose Garhwali cuisine against this world view and you will find that it meets many parameters of these movements in its approach to food production, preparation, diet and nutrition. In Uttaranchal, these practices are a living culture that have existed for thousands of years and where the rest of the world is trying to revive them they are living practices here. And hopefully, we will be able to showcase it all through the Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal.

Thankful at Lakhamandal
Life has a way of coming full circle! I just realized as I wrote this post that it was in the April of 2005 that my first article  was published. 12 years down the line today, I’m still talking about Garhwali food! What a journey of discovery it has been, and I am still learning! Gratified to be able to bring together all my abilities to put this together. I have to stop to say a special thanks to Chandrashekhar Joshi, fellow lover of Garhwali food and a good friend of long standing. This could not have happened without you! You know just how much I am going to miss you! But I promise to eat extra on your behalf!

So dear reader, please follow JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to #ExploreGarhwal and #DiscoverGarhwaliFood with me and a bunch of my food loving writers and bloggers. If you follow these hashtags on social media through May, you can stand a chance to win a complimentary stay at the resort by participating in the contest JW Marriott Mussoorie will run in June. Stay tuned!

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