In our series on how COVID-19 will change the hospitality industry, we look at eco stays and their sustainable practices. The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities within food supply chains. As a result, there has been a peak in interest to source more local produce. Upasana Todi Prakash of The Lodge at Wah in Himachal Pradesh tells us about the indigenous foods on offer, each packed with health-giving properties.
“The Lodge at Wah has always strived to serve farm-to-table meals using estate-grown organic produce. In the future, one of the things we plan to expand is to collaborate with small-scale individual suppliers for produce. This translates to a tie-up to grow even more organic produce, which we will purchase directly from them. While milk and honey is already purchased from local sources, we want to expand the product list further to include spices, grains and even pulses. In this way, we will further reduce our carbon footprint, and obtain high quality produce by uplifting small farmers and supplies in the community.
We have made efforts to employ local staff, since we not only want to make this a family of sorts, but also want to ensure local employment and community development. Our chefs are well-versed with creating meals using only locally sourced ingredients, which further feeds into our minimisation of plastic use.
The meals highlight the local dishes, and over time have become guest favourites. For instance, the kangradham is a beautiful meal that is served for important occasions like wedding receptions or pujas. Traditionally served on sal-leaf plates, it consists of the local vegetables and curries like madra, khatta and retti to name a few.
Lungru is a fiddlehead fern, something that the Kangra people cook as part of their daily meals. Our guests have always found this interesting, and we even had guests from Australia who said that it grows all around their home, and now they will be able to use it well.
Similarly, many types of produce are used to bring the local dishes to the guests’ attention. These include jimikand which is a type of yam, siddu which is a type of momo made with wheat and a staple of the shepherds, galgal which looks like a massive lemon and is used in curries for sourness.
The meals we serve to guests use produce mostly from our own garden and backyard kitchen garden, which is organic (we are currently growing thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, chillies, lal saag, radish, carrots, peas, and so much more depending on the season) as well as from the local community where we need additional produce.
Multiple chutneys, jams, jellies, pickles, herb seasonings, syrups and even ice-creams are created with our organically grown produce, so that guests can enjoy them in several ways during their stay with us. The idea is to serve our guests meals and snacks created around what is grown and available locally. Our guests love trying rhododendron chutney and sherbet. The flowers, bright and red, grow all around us during a certain time of the year. Fresh flowers are used to make pakoras for guests to enjoy.
So many of our guests request us for recipes, shoots or roots of produce, and even jars of chutneys or pickles, which we are always happy to share with them so that they can enjoy a piece of our region no matter where their home is.”