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Meir Eliahu opens the gates leading to the numerous hothouses in the fields of Moshav Shahar. To the right of the path is a field of turmeric plants with big shiny leaves; to the left, young ginger is growing; Indian okra and Thai black-eyed peas wind around poles between the furrows. Hanging from the green vines covering the hothouse ceiling beams are bitter gourds, resembling large cucumbers covered in tiny lumps, like a flock of exotic yellow-and-green birds. The plants have all been neatly set out by the diligent farmer, but as tropical plants are wont to do, they insist on transcending their boundaries, lending the place a somewhat wild and most beautiful air.
We keep going until we reach one of the cassava plots. Eliahu, who is not very tall, nearly disappears amid the high shrubs. The cassava roots will shortly reach their peak – the brown outer peel, covered with clumps of dirt, conceals another, delicate pink peel – and will be pulled from the earth. “It was a common food back in India,” says Eliahu, recalling his childhood there. “Even rice was too expensive sometimes, so we ate cassava twice a day – usually boiled into a mush with coconut milk and bananas.”
The tropical plant (also known as manioc or yuca) originated in South America, and the starch-rich root has been consumed by humans since prehistoric times. For thousands of years, it was a key dietary component in South and Central America, and by the 17th century, after European explorers came to the New World, it also found its way to Southeast Asia and India. Tapioca is about the only cassava root product that made its way into Western cuisines (tapioca beads are made from the liquid starch that remains after the cassava root is rinsed before being pounded and ground into flour), but in Asia and South America, it is used in many other ways as well.
Meir’s wife Esther, who was also born in India, is eager to demonstrate to visitors nearly all the ways in which cassava root can be adapted and cooked. The breakfast table in the couple’s modest home is soon piled with heaping platters of cassava chips, made from paper-thin slices of cassava deep-fried to perfection (these are totally addictive); fried cassava and vegetable patties; cassava with curry and mustard leaves; delectable cassava-flour crepes with various vegetarian fillings; and sautéed slivered cassava served with coconut milk and a variety of sweet fruits. As we dine, the couple speaks of fond memories of the Jewish community of Cochin. We drink delicious turmeric tea – Meir’s fingertips are stained yellow from the fresh root – and talk about the culinary culture of the old country.
The last optimist
Meir Eliahu was born in 1943 in Parur, a small town north of Cochin in southern India. His parents and their ancestors before them were farmers who cultivated rice, coconuts and bananas. Eliahu, the second of six children, came to Israel on his own in the mid-1950s. At first he lived in a school run by the Youth Aliya program, and when his family later made aliya, he joined them on Kibbutz Na’an. The family later moved to Moshav Shahar in the Lachish region.
“In the beginning, my parents worked at menial jobs
offered by the Jewish Agency,” says Eliahu. “Later, they and other families from Cochin who came to the moshav were able to purchase, with the Jewish Agency’s assistance, 20-dunam plots. They grew cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans. There wasn’t such a big variety as there is today. Then they said there was a crop we could grow – gladioli. The moshav saw it was profitable, and almost all the families switched to growing flowers for the local market. When the price of gladioli fell, they said there was another new thing that would be profitable – growing roses for export. We had a month-long training course and then we started growing roses. That lasted for nine or 10 years, and when that business collapsed we switched to growing house plants.”
In the old days, farming know-how was passed down from father to son. In the modern world of sharp fluctuations in local and global markets, farmers in Israel and around the world have to change their specialty every few years. Eliahu: “The house plants lasted for almost 14 years, and then the Ministry of Agriculture came to us with a new proposal – go back to roses. Ten families on the moshav built big hothouses at a huge investment, and it was a tremendous disaster. Everybody else stopped doing it when the big crisis hit, and I was the last one left, until I finally gave in too.”
Michal chimes in: “My father was always the last optimist.” She is one of the Eliahu’s four daughters, and is now trying to help her parents sell their produce directly to restaurants and home consumers.
In one of the big hothouses that were built for growing roses, one of the other local farmers now grows edible orchids. Meir Eliahu has switched to growing ornamental plants. “It was going well until about two years ago, but then it fell apart due to the worldwide currency crisis and the entry of farmers from Africa into the field. I had to find something else in order to survive.”
Like many families of Indian background, the Eliahu family had always grown some of the herbs and vegetables from the old country in their home garden. Now they’re trying to make Asian vegetables – which have become more commonly known in Israel over the last few years – into their main source of income. “Five years ago, I started growing cassava, which I knew from India, on a small scale, along with other Asian vegetables and herbs. I prepare the saplings myself and acclimate the crops. It’s not always easy, because some of the tropical plants need a lot of water and aren’t originally suited to growing in Israel.” (“He’s a farmer in his soul,” says Michal, gazing lovingly at her father, who is no longer a young man but still goes out to work in the fields every morning).
The eight-dunam cassava plot will very soon yield its first commercial-scale crop. “South Americans and Indians know this plant, but the general public isn’t so familiar with it and doesn’t know what to do with it. I hope they’ll learn,” says Meir. When cassava season is over, the finger-like ginger and turmeric roots will come up out of the earth. Most of the ginger and turmeric sold in Israel is imported. Regulations require that these imported plants be dipped in chlorine to speed the preservation process, but over time, the roots naturally shrivel and lose some of their initial juiciness. There are some local growers, but on a tiny scale, and Eliahu also has just a couple of dunams for now – but if you are ever fortunate enough to taste the fresh roots, you’ll be on cloud nine. Eliahu has planted a few rows of other experimental crops, including colorful Asian and Indian black-eyed-peas, Thai eggplants, melons, soy broad beans and various herbs.
Every child who grew up in the 90s and the early 00s has certainly grown up around Tom and Jerry, the adorable, infamous cat-chases-mouse cartoon. The idea of naughtiness and playing mischief had the standards that this particular series set for children and defined how much wreckage was funny enough.
The show's creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera initially named their characters Jasper and Jinx. They did not plan for the fame that Tom and Jerry brought them when they released a movie by the name of "Puss Gets the Boot". This movie featured a certain cat and mouse who were a notorious pair, named Jasper and Jinx. When the movie became a hit, the names of the characters were changed and the show shot to fame.
Tom and Jerry became a go-to cartoon for children in the early 00s, and it was one of those shows with a firm foundation, that had already been in the running for decades. The original template had been planned nearly 80 years ago, and the makers did not change it. The music that was played in the many episodes, made a breakthrough in its own way. It is the most easily recognizable melody with utterly nostalgic associations.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons Image credit: wikimedia commons
A set of supporting characters were defined for the show, to occasionally take the focus off the original pair. There was a large, black woman named Mammy Two Shoes and a bulldog who took Jerry's side. Mammy Two Shoes was discontinued because her character portrayed racist tendencies. A tall white woman replaced her, who was kinder and loved mice. Either of the women's faces was never revealed.
Today, Tom and Jerry is still a household name in homes where children love cartoons. There are a host of other shows besides this that aim to replicate the same aspects of the cartoon but do not come close at all. Despite the immense amount of violence in the show, it is a beloved pastime of parents and children alike.
Keywords: Tom and Jerry, Cartoon, Hanna and Barbera, Television
One of India's leading private museums, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) Bengaluru, has released new primary research conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, on audience behaviour in India's cultural sector. While more than half of the respondents thought the arts and culture are essential, they rarely manage to make time for it. The majority (60.6 per cent), mostly young people under 30, felt Indian museums could present more engaging content, and most perceived culture as anthropological/ sociological. Of the diverse categories included, music emerged as the most popular cultural activity.
The report is based on a survey of 500 people, which included school and college students, professionals across sectors, homemakers and senior citizens. The first initiative of its kind in the cultural space, the report shares valuable insights into the behaviour and expectations of Indian audiences engaging with a broad range of cultural activities. As part of MAP's mission to foster meaningful connections between communities and the cultural sector globally, which includes its innovative digital programme Museums Without Borders, the report shares a wealth of insights that can help museums across the country understand their audiences better. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.
As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities. | Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Speaking on the recent report, Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), said, "MAP is focused on changing the notion of a museum in India, by enabling more relevant and inclusive programming, both online and in our space in Bengaluru. The audience research commissioned by MAP, and conducted by the ReReeti Foundation, provides valuable, and actionable insights which we hope will help museums across the country better understand their consumer base, improve decision making and deepen social impact." As much as 62.3 per cent college students and 47.6 per cent professionals/homemakers perceive culture as anthropological and sociological. Music was the most popular cultural event likely to be attended, followed by heritage tours and plays/comedy shows for Indian audiences.
Over 70 per cent of college students visit museums with family and friends; working professionals, homemakers and senior citizens also predominantly visit with groups/ spouses (indicating a need to focus on increased group programming/facilitation). As much as 68 per cent of people were optimistic about going outdoors for activities and events in 2021. As much as 60.6 per cent said Indian museums are not experimental enough, and can do more to create engaging content that is also relevant to surrounding communities.(IANS/MBI)
Keywords: Art, Culture, India, Museum, Music
What is the best way to save Goa from deforestation?
Drinking feni, may well be the answer, says the secretary of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association Hansel Vaz, who on Thursday said, that sipping the state's unique alcoholic drink and making it popular would directly aid the greening of Goa's hills and other barren landscapes.
"To get more cashews, we need to plant more trees. I always say, by drinking feni you will save Goa, because we will be planting more cashew trees and we will have greener hills. The beauty of cashew is you do not need fertile land. You can grow it on a hill which can provide no nutrition. We will be able to grow more trees, if we can sell feni properly," Vaz said. Vaz's comments come at a time when the hillsides of the coastal state have witnessed significant deforestation for real estate development and for infrastructure projects. Feni is manufactured by fermenting and double distilling juice from the cashew apple.
Best way to keep Goa green is to grab yourself a glass of feni. | IANS
Addressing a press conference in Panaji, Vaz also said that the promotion of feni was also in sync with the Prime Minister's vision for India to go "vocal for local". "There is no conglomerate, multinational company owning the drink. So every time we sell feni, it is a direct cash injection into Goa. If you sell a feni cocktail in Calangute (a popular beach village), it makes a direct impact in Valpoi and Bicholim, because this money is going down there," the Association official said at a press conference in Panaji.
The Association held the media briefing to announce a road map ahead for the feni industry, especially vis a vis streamlining aspects related to production, standardisation and marketing of the brew to make it popular in other Indian states and abroad.
The efforts to streamline the state "heritage drink" comes a month after the Goa government notified a formal policy, 'Goa Feni Policy 2021', which covers 26 different varieties of feni distilled in the state. "There were many barriers related to feni, which the policy has now addressed," treasurer of the Association Tukaram Haldankar said. One such hurdle was the previous government classification, which described feni as "country liquor", which would deter tourists from purchasing the drink. The reclassification of feni as a state "heritage drink" has lent dignity to the brew which has been manufactured locally in Goa since the 16th century.
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. | Photo by Ishvani Hans on Unsplash
But there is more the government can do, along with the state's traditional distillers and manufacturers to promote feni, Haldankar said. "We request the government to allow the sale of feni in duty free stores in airports and cruise liner terminals. The government should also support us through the department of Tourism, so that feni can be promoted in its programmes. iIf you go to Scotland, they promote Scotch. Goa should promote its feni to Goa," Haldankar said, adding that traditional distillers should also be given subsidies and other measures should be taken to standardise feni, which he said, "would require further subsidies and financial assistance from the government".
"It should be a standard product like scotch, champagne," Haldankar said. "Like Mexico's tequila, Russian vodka and Japan's sake, we need to export our feni across the country and the world and the local distillers should also benefit economically," president of the Association Gurudutt Bhakta also said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: deforestation,cashew,distillers,association,government, goa, feni, India