WORDS: FABIOLA MONTEIRO
PHOTOGRAPHS: HASHIM BADANI
GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune
GREAT FOR: Lovers of food and culture
There’s more science to some art forms than you’ve ever imagined, and it could take a trip to the seaside state of Goa to help you realise it. Sure, you’ll drive down highways lined with paddy fields and coconut trees, feast on platefuls of seafood, and spend your evenings at a charming bar hanging with friendly locals, but dig a little deeper to tear away from your stock-site Goan holiday. You could break free, for instance, by breaking bread.
Sujit Sumitran, aka “the bread whisperer”, leads the daylong sourdough-baking workshop at his home in Britona. He’s been experimenting with sourdough for a few years now, and it’s clear that he loves it. For the uninitiated, sourdough is made by naturally fermenting dough. It’s the lactobacilli and wild yeast at work with the flour, water and salt that eventually gives the bread its slightly tangy taste. Through the day, Sujit will offer wonderful insights into the world of bread-baking: you’ll learn baker’s math; understand how gluten is formed; and realise that ‘culture’ in bread-baking terms has a very different meaning than it would in everyday life. The culture, or starter, is the key ingredient in baking sourdough. Think of it as a storehouse of the lactobacilli and wild yeast, which, once added to the dough, does all the work. Really. Which means there isn’t that much for you to do – just a bit of stretching and folding every half hour or so – but don’t be fooled: you’ll be chatting with Sujit and the other participants, wolfing down delicious home-made vegetable stew and prawn curries (with sourdough, of course), and cooling down with chilled beer. It can be happily exhausting. By the time your little bundle comes out of the wood-fired oven, you’ll find that you haven’t ever been quite as productive in Goa.
To ride that feeling and keep your hands busy, go for a pottery class. In a quiet, lush corner of Nachinola, Bardez, Sylvia Kerkar welcomes you into her outdoor studio. For two decades or so now, she’s been crafting delicate ceramics out of clay. Nimmy Joshi, who also works out of Sylvia’s studio, hand-makes the most adorable miniature cows, cats and elephants, some no bigger than a thimble. Both of them are patient teachers who will guide you through various techniques of handling clay – from getting rid of air pockets in the material to exercising your geometric precision while cutting bits of clay. Over two and a half hours, you’ll have made a square box from scratch. Nimmy will have taught you how to make your own little creature to work as a knob on the box. And, if you find that you don’t have the patience for detail, that’s okay: you can try the wheel. Sylvia will teach you how to centre clay and to take it from cylinder to bowl. It’s all eyes and hands on the clay; your focus can’t waver. Before you know it, though, your time is up and you’ve spent a calming morning creating – as calming as watching the waves but far more productive than you’d be at the beach.
A sense of productivity doesn’t always come out of holidays in Goa. While there are no hard feelings about being a beach bum – it’s all good, really – when else, other than when you’re on holiday, would you try something new? Find what you’re looking for and squeeze in a class: water sports? Head to Vaayu Ocean Adventures to try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding, kitesurfing or kayaking. Want to learn how to cook your own yummy Goan fare? Sign up at Siolim Cooking School. All the downtime by the beach will feel even more worth it.