Sunday, May 17, 2015

Annabel Langbein: a visit to Rajasthan, the land of kings


Despite being on the edge of a brutal desert, the markets at Jaipur reflect the rich produce local farmers coax from the soil.
It was November when we arrived in Rajasthan and out in the countryside north of Jaipur the cauliflower harvest was in full swing.

Women in vivid red and orange saris wearing colourful chunri headcloths were building giant towers of glorious white cauliflowers, arranging them atop huge squares of brightly coloured fabric, ready to bundle up for the market.

The summers here at the gateway to the Thar Desert are brutal. For months on end the heat scorches to a brittle crumb anything that might attempt to grow, and so the people wait for the autumn to till the ground and plant their crops. Now the air was cooling, the first rains had softened the ground, and a flush of soft green growth blanketed the stark, rubbled landscape.

The name of India's largest state translates as "the land of kings". Here lies the seat of the Rajput warriors as well as the princely maharajas and their opulent palaces. I had come to Rajasthan on a 12-day adventure with my two nearly adult children, to discover some of the cooking culture of this desert state, from the lavish dishes of its palaces and havelis to the more humble, but no less extraordinary, fare of the farm cooks. 

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