When planning our trip to India we chose Bangalore strictly as an entry point to the country--a modernized city to spend a few days and acclimatize to our new surroundings. But it was the historic spice trade that drew us south (well that and the fact that the climate would be mild at the end of December). As we planned our trip, we figured that since food is such an important part of our travels we needed to learn more about some of the key ingredients that bring the the taste buds to life.
After researching our options we decided that Fort Cochin, which according to the guide books is an idyllic little town on the shores of the Arabian Sea as well as a historically important port for spices, was the perfect place to begin our southern travels.
With Fort in its name I imagined an old forted city, something along the lines of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Instead we found a town whose distinctive flavor comes not only from the spices that have passed through its harbour, on their way to distant lands, but also from the colonial influence that has been left over centuries by the foreign traders.
As we meandered though town we passed the oldest church in India, houses decorated with hand painted tiles, a synagogue and Chinese fishing nets--all remnants of the Portuguese, Dutch, Arabs, Chinese and British. We strolled through a park and along the coast with hundreds of Indian holiday makers enjoying their Christmas Day. We were tempted by the freshly made cane juice, and nuts roasted in black pepper, but fears of Dehli Belly made us cautious. We imagined the smells that were locked behind the doors of the closed spice market. We sat on a terrace and enjoyed a fresh fish curry, one of my more memorable Christmas meals.
As we watched the sun set, my only regret was that we had not given ourselves more time in Fort Cochin. A few hours had only allowed us to taste a small portion of the myriad flavors that the town has to offer.