reStore Hosts Organic Breakfast at International Healers Meet-Nov 2009

November 13, 2009

Date:                     November 13, 2009
Venue:                  Adyar Poonga, Santhome High Road, Chennai
reStore Members:  Ananthoo, Kavitha Lakshman, Heenu Nanwani, Anand Narayanan
Report by Anand Narayanan

An unusual event
On Friday, the 13th of November, 2009, a three-member team of reStore volunteers led by the redoubtable Ananthoo hosted an all-organic breakfast at the premises of the Adyar Poonga on Santhome High Road for a forty-strong international delegation of traditional healers from Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries, including some from various parts of India.

How restoring the ecosystem and organic health foods can go together!
The initial impetus for this undertaking was provided by Ananthoo himself, who is acquainted with Joss Brooks who heads the Adyar Poonga project, a commendable Government-backed effort to restore the delicate wetland ecosystem that used to thrive in that region but had degenerated over the past few decades into a garbage dump and a setting for various societal vices. Mr. Brooks was open to Ananthoo’s suggestion of an all-organic breakfast for the event–which would help spread the word on the organic concept in general and reStore in particular–with the possibility of further engagements to coincide with the Poonga’s future initiatives.

Providentially, about the same time as this breakfast plan was taking shape, Ananthoo got wind of a full-fledged mechanised kitchen facility,  The Central Kitchen under YRG care, in Injambakkam that provides various catering services. Ananthoo was able to negotiate the services of the kitchen (run by a Mr. Ganesh) for a couple of days for preparing the Adyar Poonga breakfast as a trial run keeping in mind possible future collaborations.

Tasty menu plan using reStore’s specialty millets alone! 
Following this, a team of three reStore volunteers–Heenu, Kavitha and Anand–was assembled and tasked with a brief to collect recipes, help with procuring raw materials, and provide logistical and at-the-venue support. An ice-breaker meeting was held at Heenu’s house on Monday where the broad essentials were cranked out, helped along by innumerable cups of rice bran tea, crunchy pumpkin seeds and some exquisite dark cake–a shout out goes to Heenu’s hospitality!

After some deliberation, this fully organic menu was finalised:
Herbal tea (starter)
Varagu (kodo millet) Idli + chilly powder
Thinai (foxtail millet) Pongal
Sambar with reStore’s sambar powder and assorted vegetables
Coconut chutney
A dessert made with reStore’s specialty multi-mix kanji powder and powdered jaggery
Diced pineapple and hill plaintains

The general idea was to eliminate rice completely and shift the focus to millets, an indigenous family of grains which have been all but forgotten following the onslaught of rice. Millets are hardier and intrinsically more pest-resistant than rice and require far less water for cultivation. They are also packed with more nutrition and mineral density than rice, and contain about a third of the glycaemic load. In addition, millet seeds in their husk can be safely stored for about a decade without spoiling.

Trial Run with just 2 days to go
Once the menu was decided, the team swung into action, with Ananthoo coordinating the procurement and delivery of various raw materials, ably assisted by Kavitha and Heenu who were continually providing invaluable inputs on various aspects such as the presentation and serving of the meal, among others.

Following an introductory Tuesday meeting between the kitchen facility staff and the reStore team (the actual event was on Friday), it was decided that a trial run would be conducted on Wednesday to ensure that everything would go smoothly come the day of the event. Accordingly, all the required items for the trial were provided to the kitchen on Tuesday.

Wednesday–sampling day–arrived, and the four of us showed up in good time for our duties. The meal went off very well, with several of the participants commending the choice and taste of dishes. After some final fine-tuning instructions, we resolved that we had a firm handle on things, and decided to take the following day off.

Come Thursday, the Poonga authorities suddenly conveyed to Ananthoo that the number of participants expected was going to be nearly double that of the original number! Taking this sudden development in his stride, Ananthoo deftly managed with some eleventh-hour fancy footwork and quick coordination with the kitchen staff.

The all millet-breakfast proves a great success!
On the day of the event, barring a few early mishaps such as spilled sambar and an almost-hijacked dessert container, the reStore team presented a meal to remember for the delegates.

Kavitha and Heenu were the hero(in)es of the day, working indefatigably under pressure in order to keep the food supply flowing smoothly. An unexpected source of help presented itself in the form of Nicole, a visiting American who gamely jumped into the fray and helped with dicing the pineapple and with serving dishes to the delegates in company with her colleagues Nandhini and Shiva from the kitchen–many thanks to them for their assistance.

Several informational flyers were handed out to the participants with the reStore crest prominently visible. Quite a few of the local participants, notably the popular Unani practitioners Dr. Khalifatullah and his son Dr. Ameen, expressed great interest in visiting the reStore premises and exploring future possibilities with the organic millets concept.

Ananthoo, never one to let an opportunity slip by, took the floor and spoke about the concept behind the meal, though his oration had to be cut short as the delegates, overwhelmed by the delicious fragrances wafting from the waiting dishes, began to swarm around the serving tables halfway through the speech! At the conclusion of the meal, Mr. Brooks thanked the participants, whose reactions to the spread were uniformly favourable, thus capping our success.

Finally, after the last of the delegates had departed, the reStore team and the staff from the kitchen facility sat down to our own breakfast, heaving a sigh of relief at having managed to pull off the show despite all the tight constraints. A little cleaning-up followed, after which we parted with our mutual congratulations ringing in our ears.

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