It is 7 am in the morning on the picturesque island of Divar. Her neighbours are still waking up to the sound of the cocks crowing, but Luiza’s kitchen has been buzzing with activity since 6 am. Her friends and co-members of the Saint Bridget Self Help Group, Divar are already in her kitchen. Together they sip warm coffee while preparing selected recipes handed to Luiza by her grandmother. It is an important day for Cajetan & Luiza Silveira. Today they are hosting some very special guests and she has planned a feast for them.
The Chicken Cafreal is silently marinating in a corner of her kitchen counter, someone is tasting the masala for the Mushroom Xacuti, a couple of ladies are busy chopping vegetables for the Beef Stew while Luisa is diligently crumbing her Prawn Chops. “I think they will like my food”, she says. Today is the first time she will interact with her ‘new friends’. Luiza and her friends from the SHG are taking home-cooking to another level. Together with Nativefolks, she is one of the pioneers of this initiative that is mushrooming across the globe faster than you can say ‘Bon appetite’. Thousands of home cooks like her are now opening up their homes to strangers, inviting them to share a slice of their rich cultural heritage and partake in a delicious home-cooked meal.
Nativefolks is one the forerunners when it comes to implementing this idea in Goa. “Our initiative is called ‘Solkadi’ and is more than just booking a meal with the locals. It’s about the thrill of meeting new people, sharing village tales amidst indigenous flavors and usually followed by village walks. Food trails are a growing trend in global tourism. Travelers here are increasingly looking for 2 or 3 hour experiences that allow them to explore the other side of Goa. They might be here for the beaches but still look out for short cultural experiences. This offering is also meant for people who have settled in Goa. In fact, it is for anyone who loves to eat good food, share stories over a glass of fine wine and make new friends.”
“While working with various communities over homestay and rural experiences, we discovered so many traditional, healthy and mouth-watering Goan dishes. The love and patience that goes into preparing these meals is commendable. There are so many items that are not so easily found on restaurant menus, for instance, the prawn curry made with home-made masala and the wide assortment of traditional breakfast items that have been replaced with bread over time. This is a humble endeavour to preserve the local culture and its authentic recipes.” explains Ashwini Krishna, founder of Nativefolks.
Ventures like this build a symbiotic bridge between the local residents and travellers. Proud local hosts get to showcase their heritage. It also provides them with an alternate source of income, which in turn boosts the local economy. For a traveller visiting the home of a local, bonding over food and stories creates powerful travel memories to take back home.
“My experience was truly a humbling, warm and delicious one! It takes a certain kind of heart, intention and the ability to create such an experience where the guests and the hosts who are meeting for the first time share a meaningful time so effortlessly. I had the pleasure of being hosted last week at an ancestral abode named Shaloam in Divar Island, Goa, where the Silveira family so generously opened their home to me and my wife and prepared an unforgettable feast of local Goan delicacies. I am deeply grateful to Nativefolks for adding a very special experience in my repertoire of cherished memories and I look forward to more such moments.” says Gautam Nima.
Amidst all the ill effects of mass tourism that our lovely Goa is dealing with currently, it is worth pondering if more forms of responsible tourism like this could be the answer to improve the image of Goa as a tourist destination.