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Vegetarian Cooking at Pimenta

by Alice Walker

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I went to India from June to October 2012 for a volunteering project. My final week in India was spent in the Kerala midlands, quite off the tourist trail, at a place called The Pimenta. I planned the time here with the intention of learning how to cook delicious vegetarian Keralan food, which I definitely feel like I did, though having not been back in my own kitchen yet I haven’t tested out whether any of my new skills have been retained. It was a busy week, with mornings out exploring the local area, visiting food markets and buying ingredients, and afternoons cooking up a feast for the evening meal.

vegetarian classes at pimenta - jacob introducing keralan cooking

Meet Jacob the host of The Pimenta vegetarian and keralan cooking school


Vegetarian cooking classes

Each day I made about 5 different dishes, under the watchful eye of Jacob who runs The Pimenta and has lived in the area his whole life, so knows a thing or two about what tastes good and where to get the best quality ingredients, though he grows most of the spices himself in the large jungle-like garden on-site. Most days there was a lot of coconuts involved in a variety of formats, then lots of types of dhal and a huge range of vegetables, masses of curry leaves and few other spices. Rice is a big part of the diet too, and I learned that you can tell the quality of basmati rice by how long the grain is (value stuff at the supermarket just isn’t long enough apparently)! I was pleased to have a go at making my all-time favourite South Indian dish, masala dosa, though I haven’t quite refined my dosa batter spreading technique so more practice needed before any dinner party appearances of that dish.


vegetarian classes at pimenta - cooking

I'm cooking!


vegetarian classes at pimenta - coconuts

Coconut farmers at the farm, vegetarian classes use plenty of coconuts


Culinary excursions

Morning excursions were often fascinating, getting to see local life that I never would have even known about if I had just passed through on my way to one of the more popular destinations either direction of where I was staying. Wholesale banana and pineapple markets, snack making establishments making banana chips on wood stoves, were just some of the things I had an insight into.


vegetarian classes at pimenta - banana

Banana market, buy wholesale banana here


vegetarian classes at pimenta - pineapples

A hill of pineapples


Sightseeing in India

The winner for me though was seeing the products of the numerous rubber plantations I have seen so many of since starting my travels in Kerala. Seeing rubber gloves and a rainbow of rubber bands out to dry in the sun was quite a peculiar but brilliant sight. One morning I also took a trip to the government-run elephant training camp, and got to see the gorgeous baby elephants taking their bath and playing in the river. This trip happened to be on my birthday so it was a very memorable birthday treat!


vegetarian classes at pimenta - rubber hands

Hands up!


vegetarian classes at pimenta - baby elephant

Baby elephants made me smile, a memorable birthday in India


Alice Walker went to The Pimenta in India in October 2012. She wrote about her cookery holidays at the Pimenta in her blog. The content and pictures have been edited and republished at BookCulinaryVacations.com with permission.

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