“My head’s reeling. Is this what I travelled around the world for? I progressed across hills and valleys of life with a smile. In a foreign land, I felt blessed with opportunity and future of food and yet, I don’t think people (spices) react in circumspect. I feel sad,” whispered a black pepper called ‘George’, spinning away in gloom as he hopped into the hot cooking pan.
Enduring the heat and cloud of spices, George sat on top of Jome’s beautifully decorated biryani and listened to a story eloquently told by Dr Joseph. God assigned newly arrived Sid (wise man) and Greg (evil man) to go back to earth and find out how many bad people lived down below. Greg came back very soon and reported, “The whole place is full of wicked people and it’s a complete mess.” God thanked his hard work.
The narrative got very interesting as George got pushed away to a corner of the dinner plate by the tip of Jome’s fork as he started eating. The chronicle continued. God awaited Sid to come back with his scrutiny. After a long wait He went down looking for Sid. “What’s wrong? Are you not ready with your report?” God asked when they met. Sid replied cheerfully, “I am still looking for the first evil person in this enchanting place.” God returned happily. Sid was left to live more and George was amazed at the profound way to look at the world.
In a stress-loaded environment of the restaurant, George remembered the humble journey and sagacity with which he embraced everything in life and how wonderful he felt about every experience. “Happiness is a lifestyle and being part of food was like being close to God,” he thought. George reminisced about the lifecycle of a peppercorn—the birth, growth and eventual downward journey from the highest peak. Every dream was shattered as the young berry got uprooted from monsoon hit vines, baked under furious sunshine, loosing its external glory, shrunk by drying its juice and later transformed into a global identity called black gold, the king of spices.
“More than any spices, it was for pepper that Roman gold and silver coins were exported to India. Being stronger and abundant than others, peppercorns came to be seen as a symbol of power and virility,” wrote food historian Andrew Dalby.
Apart from these remarkable testimonials, George, just like every other peppercorn, silently watched the world of markets, kitchens and people who change over time for supremacy of pepper trade. Holding its power, goodness and flavour, peppercorns waited to unleash sophisticated cosmopolitan flavours, which make any dish super special. George watched heated arguments among ingredients in cooking vessels and people outside while working in tandem when food was cooked.
Every journey has to come to an end. Dejected and left out, George hung to the edge of the plate and arrived at the kitchen sink as whole and unused. Knowing the imminent last moments, George looked at Dario Geronimo who was happily washing dishes and throwing leftover food into a huge bin.
In haste Dario lifted the plate where George was sitting with bright open eyes. With a gentle smile, George looked at him. At the same time, distracted by a shout from the chef, he shook the plate and George fell down into the sink and into the tunnel of eternal darkness and an unknown destination.
With a blossomed spiritual self and unfinished life power, George joined the flow of next phase not knowing whether to be stuck somewhere to be born again just like visible pepper vines which are part of the lush landscapes of Kerala where its fruits are vital to livelihood and culture even today. The charisma lives on with every generation.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants