Pop-up to shed light on indigenous foods of Tamil Nadu

Krishna McKenzie, the founder of Solitude Farm Café in Auroville, will demonstrate how consuming local food can be a solution to Chennai’s water crisis
Krishna McKenzie with a thali of locally grown foods
Krishna McKenzie with a thali of locally grown foods


Water crisis and local foods — how can the two have a connection, you may wonder. Krishna McKenzie, a native of England, has been living in Auroville in Puducherry for the past 26 years, working as a farmer specialising in permaculture and natural farming methods. Eating foods like sundakkai (turkey berries) and murungai keerai (drumstick leaves) and millets, which are abundantly grown in the state is a way of naturally improving the water table, he argues. The founder of Solitude Farm Café in Auroville, which uses locally grown indigenous foods in its menu, is set to offer Chennai a taste of his food, and showcase how ameal can make a difference toour environment.

“The idea of the pop-up is not organic, or vegan or just eating healthy. The idea is to understand where our food comes from. Our food in the current day has to travel many miles, going through several industrial processes, before it lands on our plate. When people practiced permaculture (using farming methods, patterns observed in natural ecosystems), they had a relationship with their food. The pop-up is to help people find the origins of our food,” Krishna tells us.

Named ‘Pop-up for the Planet’, the meal offered will be a local food thali, including about 10 dishes like vazhaithandu kootu (banana stem curry), greens and papaya salad, green chutney using a variety of local greens, red rice, adai using ragi, and urundai (balls) made from jaggery, sesame and peanuts. “Across our state, we can see sundakkai growing like weed everywhere near homes and empty spaces. There is also an abundance of murungai keerai. Consuming foods like these helps local farmers in a massive way, as they use less water to grow. We can overcome the water crisis if we eat locally,” he reiterates. The medicinal and nutritional values of local foods are also high, pointsout Krishna.

The pop-up is for parents who want their children to grow up healthy, for restaurants to understand how they can use local ingredients instead of importing, and for everyone who cares for the environment,Krishna stresses.

“I want people to understand that next time they walk into a supermarket, they don’t have to pick up quinoa (originated from Peru and Bolivia) to be healthy. Foods like millets, on the other hand, have been the foundation of Tamil culture, while rice is a recent industrial innovation,”he asserts.

Pop-up for the Planet will be held from 12.30 pm on December 22 at Grand Malabar Mess in T Nagar. Visitkrishnamckenzie.com to register for the event.

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