Two Souths converge this Sunday at Spice Route Supper Club

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Every food writer eventually develops obsessions, and India tops my list of preoccupations. I daydream about spending months there, wandering from state to state and learning recipes from home cooks who keep specific, regional traditions alive. Restaurants can offer some worthy examples (I went looking last year), but, as I’ve complained before, the menus too often get muddled into a ubiquitous mishmash of too-creamy Northern dishes, cooked in bulk and devoid of soul, and twenty versions of mediocre dosas from the South.

So I am downright giddy about the food being served at the Spice Route Supper Club gatherings. Beef simmered to tenderness in coconut milk and perfumed with fresh curry leaves. A traditional vegetarian feast that includes twenty-one different dishes, from seasoned yogurt flavored with fried okra and beets to light stir-fries featuring pumpkin and cabbage. Chai scented with cardamom and nutmeg to finish meals. Full disclosure: I am friends with Asha, the woman behind the supper club, but I assure you, I wouldn’t be mentioning her events if I didn’t think them unique and spectacular. Asha is cooking the food of Kerala, the southernmost state of India with a rich history as a major port along the global trade routes (it is a central part of what was formerly known as the Malabar Coast). The culture there has a flourishing Christian community, which is why beef dishes aren’t taboo to some Keralites.

Asha has earned some lovely shout-outs from other bloggers, but I decided to speak up myself because I’m particularly fascinated with what Asha dreamed up for this coming Sunday, November 21. She’s preparing a five-course meal she’s calling “The Indian South Meets the American South.” The menu sounds amazing: shrimp with rice grits, Kerala fried chicken with waffles (eat your heart out, Gladys Knight), rum cake with vanilla-bourbon ice cream. I asked Asha specifically about one course, “Pork, two ways”—a Kerala version of pork vindaloo with a vinegary tang and Southern ham baked in Madeira. She put the connection together for me: It’s an homage to Portuguese influences. The Portuguese introduced Kerala to vinegar and the world to Madeira (which came to the Southern U.S. via ports in Charleston and Savannah). Such smart thinking, to link global connections in local ways.

There are a few seats left for this Sunday’s meal. The cost is $85 for five courses, including beverage pairings. Email spiceroutesupperclub@gmail.com for more information. See you there.

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