I visited Malabar Catering this weekend (came home with some delicious items) and chatted informally with the owner Elizabeth about the possibility of putting together a communal take-out.
The idea is for them to prepare a selection of typical Keralan dishes as well as unusual items using rarer ingredients (duck?, jackfruit?), pack them up in to-go boxes ready for pick-up within say a 2-hour window on the assigned day. We can then all enjoy the cuisine in the comforts of our homes (perhaps using our fingers to eat, in typical Keralan style) and chat/review the meal LIVE online.
There has been quite a bit of Chicago interest in Keralan cuisine of course. Professor Bruce Kraig has done a show on this for PBS, Kristin Eddy wrote a piece (or a few pieces?) about it for the Tribune. And if I remember correctly (and Cathy2 can correct me on this), the Culinary Historians Group featured it in one of their monthly lectures not too long ago.
I thought that this would be a wonderful way of solidifying this curiosity and a way of shifting it from the level of lectures and shows to the level of actual eating and enjoyment.
Perhaps through our collective connections, we might even be able to convince Prof Kraig and/or Kristin Eddy and/or perhaps (if I could convince her) a well-known expert on Keralan cuisine to take time out from their busy schedules to come join us online within a few-hours online-window to answer questions.
It would be a way to encourage as many lurkers as possible to join in and sample a lesser-known cuisine. I imagine setting-up a temporary email account where I can get a count of the number of orders. There is no need to identify names, just number of orders requested. We just expect people to be honorable and let us know if they cannot make it, so that the folks at Malabar will not be stuck with too many unsold boxes.
I am thinking of working with a figure of $15.00 per order (each order = 2 servings plus plenty of leftovers). Is that too much? Too little? If we can arrange for truly unique/unusual ingredients, could I be authorized to go for as high as $18 an order?
I am thinking of doing this on a Thursday (perhaps the first Thursday of December), perhaps with a pick-up window from 5 to 7. People living in same general areas (northern suburbs, western suburbs, southside etc) can of course make arrangements to do some car-pooling and have one representative pick-up for the rest (Malabar is in the 3500W block of Montrose).
Those who have made plans for dinner on that night can still enjoy the boxes the next day. Most dishes from tropical cuisines taste unintegrated when they first come off fresh from the stove and actually taste better through the next few days when the flavors have had the chance to meld and mellow. In fact, I might deliberately ask Malabar to prepare certain items ahead of time.
I would try to get a list of ingredients used if not the actual recipe so that we can all follow the logic of the dish. Perhaps we could even bribe David Hammond or someone with a digital camera to take one picture of the herbs/spices (green cardomom, livered coconut meat, mustard needs, curry leaves etc) used so that we can all identify them as we pick pick pick through the dish.
Any interest in such a project? Any additional thoughts? A prelimary count of hands perhaps?