"We are famous for our live crab", the restaurant manager proclaimed with a smile. "We show the crab to the client, before cooking it to perfection, however they wish", he added. I was at an Oriental speciality restaurant in posh south Bombay, for a survey I was conducting as part of a class project. Each of my classmates went to different regions of coastal India in an attempt to understand the current trends in seafood consumption in south India. We were trying to answer questions like: which are the seafood hotspots in the country, where is the seafood coming from, is there a broad pattern of customer preference for each region, how much of a 'locavore' is the average (sea)foodie, and what is on a typical menu at a restaurant serving seafood. And this was the third time I was encountering "live crab" in two days, incidentally at a restaurant serving south Asian cuisine. Was this a coincidence?
With an area of more than 40,000 sq. kms., Kutch is unquestionably the largest district in India. It is in the north-western part of the state of Gujarat in India, and beyond the upper borders of the state is the country of Pakistan. The land, its people, and their culture are shaped and moulded by the extremities of the area and the climate. They lie at the confluence of different cultures and these influences exist today for all to see, in the clothes, traditions, food, lives, and beliefs of the people. It is a unique landscape for where else in the world can you find a desert ecosystem with three distinct seasons (summer, monsoon, and winter), pockets of which transform into wetlands for a third of a year, is pretty much an island surrounded by two Gulfs and a salt desert, and for a few months in a year metamorphoses into the largest grassland in Asia.