Janice D’souza finds as many ways as possible to include coconut in her weeknight meals. She finds it goes splendidly with a wide array of Kentucky ingredients, and it is crucial to making food that tastes as good as the dishes her mother prepared at home. Using a few extras that may seem exotic but are readily available, Janice transforms Kentucky food into tastes from 8,666 miles away. You can do the same, because Janice has generously shared these recipes for a quickly made weeknight Mangalore-in-Kentucky meal.
Janice D’souza. Photo provided.
Janice grew up in the Catholic community in Mangalore, also called Mangaluru, a southwest Indian port city where a pattern of changes in rulers and strong international trade across centuries have shaped a city that is deeply multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-religious. While the backgrounds of the humans who have governed the city have changed dramatically and frequently across millennia, the foods that grow in Mangalore’s very hot climate have changed less. The flavors on Janice’s family table as she grew up came from what grows nearby: coconuts, rice, fish, chilis, many spices, pickles and vinegar-y foods, vegetables and tropical fruits like mangoes and bananas. We can guess that these same flavors would have been familiar to people in the southern part of Indian throughout history.
Janice came to Berea College in 2010. A first generation college student, her studies focused on social justice and gender. She met and married fellow Berea College student Jordan Engel. In 2015, Janice returned to India as a Clinton Fellow, investigating the factors that affect girls’ staying in school. Today, she works as a full-time women’s rights advocate and activist, and will soon move to Atlanta for graduate school in women’s health at Emory.
Janice and Jordan cook for themselves at home most days. The tastes are Mangalorean. For flavors like curry leaves, coconut, ginger and many other spices they patronize Indian groceries. Many of the main ingredients in their meals come from Kentucky soil.
During the growing season, Janice and Jordan subscribe to Teal Tractor CSA, run by Farmher Katie James. The weekly boxes introduced Janice to summer squash and kohl rabi. The abundance of vegetables at peak season-leafy greens, for example-challenge the two cooks in a two-person household to find as many ways as possible to prepare and enjoy the vegetables.
All home cooks who eat seasonally and locally face similar challenges, which explains the excitement in the Lexington Community Radio studios when Janice make a guest appearance in January. Her descriptions of food she ate growing up, and her confident commitment to preparing similar food in Lexington, using Kentucky-grown ingredients, offers a new set of flavors for all of us to try.
We had a wonderful time talking with Janice. Listen here. And enjoy the recipes here. Please be in touch if you, like Janice, often cook at home, and make a point of using Kentucky-grown ingredients, perhaps ones you grow yourself! We want to tell more stories of Kentucky cooks who make a habit of using Kentucky’s wonderful ingredients.