Summer in Connecticut

Kent Falls, Kent CT

Connecticut brings memories of winding roads with tree-filled landscape leading to  conversations at my aunt and uncle’s, often in their dine-in kitchen. Adding to these memories, recently, were the different sights and sounds of water in the countryside, a covered bridge and a coastal town among other scenery leading to a different experience of food and conversation.

Covered bridge, West Cornwall CT

Sitting inside the market café in the small town of Kent with tall ceilings, large glass cases and friendly smiles, there was something about the taste of homemade mayonnaise in the coleslaw that evoked a distinct sense of comfort from a distant time.  

On a day when couples, mothers, children, friends, shoppers and walkers-by seemed to ignore the sultry conditions in favor of experiencing the farmers market in Westport, one vendor promoting Copps Island Oysters while talking about the local waters in Norwalk and Westport volunteered to shuck some for me over a period of time at a dollar a piece with proceeds going to charity. Her patience -she was not a professional oyster-shucker- and the cool, briny and slightly sweet flavor of the plump and juicy oysters, and her insistence to let me have a raw local clam on the house, seemed to counter the heat just fine.

Oysters from Norwalk and Westport waters, Copps Island CT

 

Clam from Norwalk and Westport waters, Copps Island CT

 

I started a conversation with an elderly lady sitting in front of me under the shade of a tent, gracefully, eating a tamale: while she politely expressed her lack of preference for oysters without taking anything away from my experience, she urged me to try a tamale from the Latin American vendor. In a setting with no other immigrant in sight, it was hard not to think about the popularity of the tamales and they were one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The lady at the table also spoke with enthusiasm about school children who visit the market to take pictures and how she once showed a kid a beautiful head of lettuce for a picture which in turn made me think of another graceful lady who had just a few moments ago opened the net around her just-purchased box of strawberries and with an endearing smile asked my three-year old to smell it. The experience with these three people was not representative of the people at the market but it was a pleasant buffer as I made my way to the car in the sweltering heat.

Tamale vendor, Westport Farmers Market CT

 

Goat brain made in a ginger, garlic, onion and tomato-based masala is a delicacy I was exposed to as a child but one that gets my wife’s attention before I can finish the sentence. One day when she had retired a bit earlier than me, she asked later if there was any conversation about brain cutlets when I reminded her that it had been a long day and that she was probably conflating the memory of her favorite dish with something that neither of us had eaten. Not once but many times over the years, I’ve heard my aunt rave about brain cutlets that she had enjoyed during her youth in Madras, India at one of her aunt’s and it was made by the cook, Antony,  she would always remember. That these cutlets would show up the next day on our dinner plates, just lifted the moment for so many different reasons.

Brain cutlet, Ridgefield CT

Whether it was reliving luxurious brunches that I’d had at a restaurant near the Westport farmers market when I first arrived in this country or seeing the three-year old being served aatu-kaal kuzhambu (trotters in a south Indian flavored broth) that she would try to fill into an empty bone on her plate to then slurp or being served raw zucchini picked from the home garden or having someone readily make dosai (south Indian crêpe) for everyone at the table at the end of the day, the summer of 2018 in Connecticut was enriching.

6 thoughts on “Summer in Connecticut

  1. I love this post, most of all because I grew up in Wilton, and know and love the area well. The next time you are in Connecticut you should stop by The Wilton Historical Society on Route 7 as my late father donated a portion of his antique tool collection concentrating on local Connecticut trades and industries such as harvesting oysters and clams - a lovely tradition that still caries on.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      How nice to know that this world can be a small place? I will remember and will look forward to visiting The Wilton Historical Society next time I visit Ridgefield. Thank you for sharing this story about your late father. Indeed what a lovely tradition!

      Reply
  2. ravi sankar

    summer memories will linger long after. I am so glad that you were able to capture the spirit and the variety of the experiences. In addition to what you captured I would like to add that the Farm to table dinner at Millwrights also continues to capture the CT - supporting a mixed family type of dinner in a beautiful and elegant setting with really top class ingredients and cooking and the leftover fruit pie that I am continuing to taste even after you have left.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you for contributing to a delightful experience! Millwrights' does provide a beautiful setting, I think they source their ingredients very well and I think their rendition of the main course dishes were enjoyable.

      Reply
  3. nirmala vani

    Scenic and pristine environment , mystic covered bridge, authentic delicacies from the farmer's market and family recalling the likes of one and all and bringing it to the table as a surprise, what more can one want on a holiday. The delicate goat brain served as cutlets is something new and a must try. Aatu Kaal kuzhambu brings back wonderful memories of family sit down breakfast particularly during Deepavali. The tradition continues even today.

    Reply

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