Food diva Karen Anand carried back some flavours of Coimbatore and promised to be back for more, writes Pankaja Srinivasan

“Every now and then, I am asked what is going to be the food trend this year. A few years ago it was tiramisu. Last year, everyone who cooked made cupcakes, and red velvet was a rage. This year, I said, would be all about bakeries and patisseries.” This was food diva Karen Anand speaking to Vishak Chandrasekhar of Vs. Karen looked impressed with the boulangerie and asked searching questions about the kind of cream, the brand of chocolate, the proportion of sweet and so on he used to bake. She was in Coimbatore at the invitation of Ravi Sam to speak at CII’s Tides Summit.

Karen went on a whirlwind drive around the city just to get an idea of what Coimbatore had to offer. The curtain raiser included trips to stores selling organic produce (Iyal and Sreevatsa), banana chips (Banaanaa Slice and A1 chips) and baked goods (Vs). Karen sampled chips, thattais and murukkus. She also bought local millets and other produce. A great advocate of eating and working with locally-available produce, she was delighted to find that traditional cuisine was still such a big part of the city’s food scene.

Inspired by the variety of grains, vegetables and other produce, Karen spoke of the possibility of having a farmer’s market right here in the city. Karen has pioneered the Pune Farmers Market, which brings together chefs, restaurateurs, amateur cooks and people who love food. She said she saw a few possible places in the city where the market could be organised. “I am hundred per cent convinced it would work here, and we are looking at mid-September as a possible date.” Not just food, she hoped it would be a platform that would bring together crafts people as well.

About her impressions of the city, Karen said, “I am bowled over. Everyone I have met is so much into food. And they are so up-to-date with trends. A lot of people I met seemed a lot more interested in food than I am!” For her, Coimbatore’s ‘smaller town’ charm is a huge advantage. “I really miss that in the big cities.”

Karen is taking back a lot of ideas and plans from Coimbatore, along with flavoured chips, dosa mixes, readymade podis and two saris…

NOTES FROM A FOOD BLOGGER

Shanthini Rajkumar, who attended the CII summit and showed Karen Anand around the city, says: When you get to meet someone you’ve admired from a very young age, it’s definitely exciting. Spending time with her was fun.

Karen was amazed at the variety of local produce available. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I enjoyed exploring my city more than ever. She mentioned in her speech that she was happy to note that a lot of traditional vegetables and food habits were still prevalent in Coimbatore and that she was saddened by the mushrooming of multi-national fast food chains, everywhere.

“We, in India, have far more interesting flavours and dishes to offer the world,” Karen said. “Why not a fast food dosa chain? It can be done,” was her parting comment.