The run on rice

When I saw & heard on TV yesterday that the Costco & Sam’s club shops in USA are starting to restrict rice sales and that rice prices (max 20Lbs per customer) have gone upto $20 from $8 per bag, I started to take note. Was this really happening in the wealthy & stable USA? Look at the picture; it is from a Costco store in California (courtesy ABC, AP news). Then my younger son told me that Filipino expat workers were sending bags of rice from Canada to Manila. Blame stories like ‘Global rice shortage due to rice hoarding by India’ started appearing here & there…

Sample some headlines
Thai rice hits new record, feeding food fears
Riots in Africa & Haiti
Americans hoard food as industry seeks regulations
Costco CEO Blames Media for recent run on rice
Rice shortage in Philippines
Bush Orders $200M in Emergency Food Aid
UN: Rising food prices are silent tsunami

Some months back, a local Indian shop owner told us to buy the biggest bag of Atta if we could. When asked why, he said, wait and see, there is going to be a ban on exports from India soon and prices will go up and you will have difficulties getting your favorite atta and pulses (he did not mention rice at that time). We thought that was a clever ploy to get rid of his big bag stock. Looking back, this ban on flour took effect after 4 months and it also affected the rice exports from India. Indian papers stated that the government did this to stave off the increasing rice prices in India but that Basmati exports were not affected.

Meanwhile Filipinos, Latinos and Indians started to rapidly buy the rice bags off the shelves in the US market. Yesterday, even mainstream US TV, after the Pennsylvania presidential primaries of Tuesday had been done with, was interviewing Indian shop owners!! And I remembered some days in my childhood, days when wheat entered our cuisine. After the late 50’s early 60’s famine, rice output dropped and wheat was gifted by the Americans to India (see my blog on Congress grass). A ration card system was soon introduced and even wealthy families needed one to obtain the delivery of the ration rice. Some of it was initially smelly and of poor quality, and raw rice was hardly available in ration shops. (The ration card system is just being introduced in Manila now and they are delivering subsidized rice on the streets in Manila). Later on, the ration card became an ID card and all kinds of stuff such as kerosene, Kora cotton textiles started getting delivered in those shops .

So why do we have these food shortages today? Many reasons are attributed

1. Massive outflow of money from stocks into commodity trading and commodity futures, thereby raising prices. Speculative buying by investors gambling on further price rises has further pushed up prices
2. Hoarding and buyers panic – opportunistic pricing by sellers
3. Shrinking wheat crops - Production of corn & maize instead of wheat due to demand for bio fuels. Senior Bush Administration officials reiterated their defense of corn-based ethanol fuel on Tuesday, saying it was just one factor in rising food prices but that high energy costs (due to oil prices)were the main culprit
4. Increase in domestic stocks by certain food producing countries
5. High energy rates, bad weather and an increase in demand are also factors
6. Experts blame climate change as heat waves caused a slump in harvests last year in Eastern Europe, Canada, Morocco and Australia, all big wheat producers.
7. The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months

Brazil became the latest country on Wednesday to suspend rice exports, following in the footsteps of India and its close rival for the mantle of world number-two supplier, Vietnam. China, India, Egypt, Vietnam and Cambodia have either imposed minimum export prices, export taxes or export quotas and, as is the case in India & Vietnam, bans. As a result, demand has surged in countries that rely largely on rice imports, such as Bangladesh, SE Asia and Iran.
Look at the US price surges over the past year - Rice 122%, Wheat 95%, Soybeans 83%, Crude oil 82%, Corn 66%, Gasoline 41%, Gold 37%, Sugar 30%, Coffee 24%. Rice futures on the Chicago Board of Trade climbed 2.5 percent on Wednesday to an all-time high of $24.85 per hundredweight

In Thailand some farmers have been harvesting rice under armed protection. (Jasmine rice rose from $300 until late 2007 to today’s $1000 a tonne). The country is the world's top rice exporter and Thai farmers are taking no chances. In Pakistan, military escorts are following all trucks carrying grain, and are guarding grain silos. Even in wealthy Korea, consumers went into a near panic in early March when the cost of ramen, an instant noodle made from wheat that is a staple of the Korean diet, spiked in price. Housewives emptied grocery shelves for days in Seoul to snap up supplies before the increase went into effect. Myrna Lacdao used to eat two meals a day in Philippines. Now she eats one and gives the rest to her two grandchildren.

Nathan Childs an analyst provides an interesting insight in the LA times There is no dearth of rice in the United States. The Department of Agriculture projects U.S. rice supplies this year will be 8.3 million tons, nearly unchanged for the last seven years. Because Americans consume just 10% to 15% of what people in Asia's big rice-eating nations eat, there's plenty for domestic use, said Nathan Childs, a USDA market analyst. Rice consumption in the U.S. is so low that as much as half of the domestic crop is exported. Most rice is eaten within 100 miles of where it is grown. Just 8% of world production actually trades internationally, Childs said. So these new export limits and taxes have had an outsize effect on prices, he said

Being from a rice farming family (mother’s side), I still remember my brothers complaints that rice prices were too low compared to production costs, that it was becoming difficult to maintain the farmlands and his plans to shift to other crops like sugarcane and pulses. But, I thought, what would he say now seeing the price of rice? Strange indeed are the ways of the world.
Even in wealthy US, farmers have always been treated with kid gloves and provided massive subsidies. In India, that is hardly done. 17,107 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2003 and the trend is continuing. As the country is fast moving into a consumerist society, farmers will lose the will to work more and earn less, moving to more lucrative avenues. As NY times puts it, India’s economy may be soaring, but agriculture remains its Achilles’ heel, the source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people but a fraction of the nation’s total economy and a symbol of its abiding difficulties. In what some see as an ominous trend, food production, once India’s great pride, has failed to keep pace with the nation’s population growth in the last decade.

Hopefully the politicians and bureaucrats are working on this. Meanwhile I guess what we could do is to reduce spending and waste & practice austerity. The press & TV will continue to make hay, but raise awareness and bring in realization, the hoarders will hoard, profiteers will profit, the panic stricken will run helter-skelter and countries like India will get their share of blame…

Hopefully the world will ride out this one.

Replying a tag

I have been tagged by Indrani & Nanditha…so here goes

1. Last movie you saw in a theater?
You, Me Aur Hum…Initially I wanted to do a review but then desisted. There were too many around already. Nice movie, both the actors Kajol and Ajay have excelled, the theme is great, the direction could have been better. We were 6 people in the theater…

2. What book are you reading?
Three or four books – Third secret by Steve Berry, Adventures of the artificial woman – Thomas Berger, Malabar kalapam – Madhavan Nair…

3. Favorite board game?
Have not played one in ages, Last was Scrabble I think.

4. Favorite magazines?
Time, PCWorld, Newsweek…

5. Favorite smells?
Vanilla, cilantro, Orange..

6. Favorite sounds?
Look out for an upcoming blog on this subject

7. Worst feeling in the world?
Being considered inferior by virtue of national origin

8. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?
Plans for the day, the drive to the office

9. Favorite fast food place?
Panda Express

10. Future child’s name?

11. Finish this statement. “If I had lot of money I’d….?”
Plenty of things to do – travel around & take a long vacation tops the list

12. Do you drive fast?
Yes, mostly

13. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?

14. Storms - cool or scary?

15. What was your first car?
Isuzu - Gemni

16. Favorite drink?
A good beer during the week end or horlicks (how was that!!)…

17. Finish this statement, “If I had the time I would….”?
I would start out lazily on a book project, writing a novel

18. Do you eat the stems on broccoli?
Yes, in Chinese food & soups

19. If you could dye your hair any color, what would be your choice?
No plans to do any such thing (wow! who created this questionnaire?)

20. Name all the different cities/towns you’ve lived in?
Calicut, Palghat, Trivandrum, Madras, Bombay, Bangalore, Riyadh, Istanbul, Coral Springs - Florida, Stafford - UK, Temecula – California…

21. Favorite sports to watch?
Cricket & tennis

22. One nice thing about the person who sent this to you?
Nanditha – Appreciation for other cultures
Indrani – Meticulous study of places & other subjects

23. What’s under your bed?
Clothes that won’t be worn, in a storage box

24. Would you like to be born as yourself again?
I think so

25. Morning person, or night owl?
Morning person. I cant usually stay up past 11PM

26. Over easy, or sunny side up?
Over hard

27. Favorite place to relax?
Living room sofa or my office/den/library

28. Favorite pie?
I don’t eat pies…

29. Favorite ice cream flavor?

I pass this on to
Narendra, Harimohans & BPSK

The torn earlobe and the horse trader

A friend of mine recently changed names from Jayan to John, after five decades of existence on this planet…There was some talk amongst us classmates as to why, how etc especially since it involved just that, a change of name…and that reminded me of a fascinating character from the old times, one who hobnobbed with the gentry of Portugal, Malabar, the Vatican and what not…A boy from Calicut who later changed his name…

Here my friends is another pearl from Malabar history – the story of how a scorned Malayali changed the course of history, starting from a lowly position as the son of a trader Chetty in Calicut, then to a lofty position as the Zamorin’s envoy to Lisbon, a drop to becoming a lowly horse trader in Travancore, to involvement in an incident of a torn earlobe, then providing salvation for the pearl collecting Paravas of Tuthukudi, lending a big hand in the attainment of sainthood for St Xavier, and speeding the decline of the suzerainty of the once powerful Zamorin of Calicut..

When I first read 20000 leagues by Jules Verne, I stopped for a while at the description of the fisher folk south of India, fishing for pearls. Verne tells us of the way Capt Nemo saves the poor chap from a shark attack and that part stuck in my mind. Later on, while reading MGS Narayan’s book Calicut Revisited, I read briefly about Da Cruz, a very interesting but rather unpopular guy in Malabar history. Only later did I get more details about how this guy’s path crossed with these fishermen that Verne talked about. Later I read that Dimitri Mascarenhas a Brit cricketer, whom I used to enjoy watching, is of Parava extract.
In Chapter 6, Verne tells us - It was a man, a living man, a black Indian fisherman, a poor devil who no doubt had come to gather what he could before harvest time. I saw the bottom of his dinghy, moored a few feet above his head. He would dive and go back up in quick succession. A stone cut in the shape of a sugar loaf, which he gripped between his feet while a rope connected it to his boat, served to lower him more quickly to the ocean floor. This was the extent of his equipment. Arriving on the seafloor at a depth of about five meters, he fell to his knees and stuffed his sack with shellfish gathered at random. Then he went back up, emptied his sack, pulled up his stone, and started all over again, the whole process lasting only thirty seconds.

So who are these fishermen? They are the Bharatar or the
Paravas. Parava pearl (incidentally pearl fishing was done only for 20-30 days in March, every year) fishermen inhabited the sandy coast from Kanyakumari to Rameswaram in South India, concentrating around Thoothukudi - Tuticorin. Early in the 16th century, they were virtually reduced to slavery by Muslim rulers who took over the pearl fishing rights, and the Hindu rulers who did not quite support their cause, till finally the Portuguese came to their salvation. They were the first to embrace Christianity in the 16th century, and the path to their conversion by St Xavier was laid by a horse trader John (Joao) Da Cruz. The story is interesting.

It was in the year 1534 that an incident occurred which threatened to throw the coastal people into the throes of a violent religious conflict. In a scuffle between a Muslim and a Parava at Tuticorin, the Parava had his ear torn out by his adversary, who out of sheer greed for the earring it bore, carried it away with him. The incident sparked off a civil war between the Paravas and the Muslims, and it was soon apparent that the Paravas would be beaten in the struggle. The local Muslims, rich and mighty, now swore to exterminate the Paravars. The distraught Parava leaders chanced on a person called John Da Cruz, who was waiting to get paid for the horses he had sold, at Cape Comorin. Da Cruz, considered a local due to his ancestry, but important due to his Portuguese connections, convinced them that they could get Portuguese aid should they convert to Christianity, which the Parava leaders agreed to do as they had no other resort.

About 80 Paravas were initially baptized by the clergy in 1535-36 at Cochin. They also had to pay out 60,000 Panams to Portuguese as protection money. The Portuguese moved their ships to the Cape & Tirunelveli, the matters came to head with the Muslim army soon retreating, fearing fierce punishment by the Portuguese.

Dom Joao Da Cruz then went to Goa to convince St Xaveir (it was 6-8 years later that St Xavier arrived - in 1542 – to carry out the mass conversions) who traveled on to the south coasts and began the conversion of some 20,000 Paravas, some days baptizing so many (over a period of 15 months) that he could not raise his arm from fatigue. The Paravas later became known as the Fernando’s.

So, let us now get to Da Cruz. John Cruz was a fair skinned Malayali Chetty according to Damiao Da Gois a Portuguese historian (it is mentioned by the Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa however, that Cruz was a relative of the Zamorin and a Nair) from Calicut, whom the Zamorin deputed to Portugal in 1512-1513 as his envoy and emissary to sign a treaty with Albuquerque. He was 15 years old then. At Portugal, he decided to become a Christian, changed his name to Joao Da Cruz and by 1515 he was raised to the Knighthood with the insignia and privileges of a Chevalier of the Order of Christ, becoming the first of the ordained ‘fidalgos’. He learnt Portuguese, married in Portugal and returned to Calicut in 1515-16. The Zamorin was furious about the whole affair, especially Da Cruz’s conversion and disowned the newly ordained Cruz and banished him from Malabar. Da Cruz moved his field of operations to Cochin and the south coast of Travancore, far away from the powers of the Zamorin, vowing revenge in his mind.

After a series of misfortunes thenceforth at Cochin and Chaliyam, where he lost his trading stock, boats and his family, Cruz got arrested by the Portuguese authorities themselves owing to nonpayment of heavy debts. King John III of Portugal pardoned him and he then became a horse trader who went to Cape Comorin with 12 horses to trade. There it was that he met the Paravas who told him their tale of woe…Cruz brought the first batch of 15 people to Cochin for conversion, and another 70 later since the initial group and Da Cruz himself were not taken seriously at first. Da Cruz pleaded the case of the Paravas before Nuno da Cunha, the Governor, and it was decided that they be helped against their Muslim opponents. Accordingly a Portuguese squadron appeared before Cape Comorin (Kanya Kumari).

Following all this a fierce naval battle was fought on 27th June 1538 (A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 By Stephen Neill) between the Zamorins, his moor supporters and the Portuguese at Vedali in which the Zamorin and the Kunjali moors were defeated. With that defeat the final vestiges of power that the Zamorin held, receded like the tides from those shores….The king of the seas, the Zamorin, never wielded the immense power he once had, ever again. After this event, the Zamorin’s position was largely ceremonial and secondary to the Dutch and the English rule that followed in Malabar..

What became of Dom Joao Da Cruz? Having used every opportunity from 1515 onwards to get back at the Zamorins who had once ridiculed him, he had finally obtained his revenge. Da Cruz had in the meantime persuaded St Xavier of Goa to go in 1542 to Tuticorin for the mass conversions (some 20,000) and thus recorded his name in history books and Christian folklore. Xavier went on to attain sainthood for the efforts over 15 months in converting the Parava lot and others in Asia & SE Asia.

But was Da Cruz the eventual Jati Thalaivan of the Paravas (1543-1553) according to Susan Bayly? If so, he headed the long line of Thalavar descendants that the Paravars had after this him. It is stated in the book ‘A History of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, 1450-1990’ that the Paravas actually borrowed his family name in gratitude and used it thenceforth for their leaders and nobles.

Just like his early childhood days (even his real name is unknown), no reliable information is available about Cruz’s days after the events at Tuticorin and Goa. The problems faced by the fishermen and the eventual conversion of the pagan Paravas by St Xavier was big news in Europe and this was how Jules Verne knew about them.

But well, the wheel turned again - Curiously it was a Malayali from Calicut who finally erased the last vestiges of Portuguese rule and heavy handedness in South India. It was VK Krishna Menon who moved his army to liberate Goa from the Portuguese in 1961 thus closing the Portuguese chapter in Indian history. Krishna Menon was however, not related to the Zamorin’s.


1. The one person who studied Da Cruz the most was VB Nair when he presented his article ‘A Nair envoy to Portugal’ (Indian Antiquary 1928) and there was Georg Schurhammer – Letters of D Joao Da Cruz (Kerala Society papers). The original Da Cruz letters are available at Goan or Lisbon archives. I have not seen these letters or VB Nair’s article. If somebody can help me obtain copies of these I would be obliged.

2. The Zamorin is a title. Roughly 139 Zamorins ruled between the 826AD and 1940. The Zamorin during 1513- 1522, Elankoor Nambiathiri Thirumalpad who was supported by the Portuguese, after he (disputed fact) poisoned his predecessor, sought peace with the Portuguese and deputed the said Da Cruz as his envoy to Portugal.

3. Joao Da Cruz is considered to be a Chetty. What is a Chetty? Is it Seth, Shettu, Shetty, one of the Waynad castes or the Chettiar community? Who were those that existed in Malabar in those days? Was he of North Indian Vaisya extract? Could very well have been. Could also have been a trader Tamil Chetty, but well, he mastered Tamil, Malayalam and Portuguese, looked very South Indian, and was of fair complexion. His original name and ancestry are unknown.

The magic of Hing

I still recall Rama Iyer from Thekke Gramam (South Village), the wizened old Ambi (Palghat Brahmin), no shirt, bent over from arthritis, wearing a discolored single dhoti floating high above his ankles, walking from his agraharam to the post office in Pallavur, umbrella in one hand and the yellow LG bag containing his Chella petti (I should explain – Chella petti or murukkaan petti contained chewing paraphernalia – betel leaves, arecanuts, small steel dubba with chunna – lime etc) tucked in his right arm pit. He would walk, oblivious to the occasional car or bike that whizzed past, sidestepping the cow that was sleeping on the road, looking at the mountains and the paddy fields, and muttering to himself. We would watch, lazily, lounging on the parapet wall, as one is wont to do while on a vacation, the strenuous & vociferous game of cricket having been completed and with the drinks break on….The yellow bag under Iyer’s armpit came to my mind today and I remembered the yellow tin it contained, paint peeling off, the tin that originally housed a block of LG Kayam..

Called Kayam or Perumkayam in Tamil and Malayalam, this is a spice that was delivered in a classic yellow dabba. At first it was a block of pure resin which we had to toast over fire and grind to powder before use. Of course, that version provided the ‘puuurfect’ flavor. The plastic dabba and today’s instant hing powder came much later. The yellow cloth bag that was gifted with the purchase of a large hing tin is legendary, in the old times, many ambi’s carried their Chella Petti and money bag in that yellow bag that faded to an ochre color with age.

While LG changed the dabba to white recently, Vandevi maintained the yellow color on the dubba. The tin & the resin block of Hing are difficult to find these days and not very popular. People say that it entered the South Indian cuisine as a substitute for garlic which chaste Brahmins never touched. It is explained by elders that asafoetida was used to mimic the flavors of garlic and/or onion. BTW, note that Garlic neutralizes Asfoetida, so they are not usually mixed in curries. Gujjus, Marwadi’s and to an extent Iyers have (used in sambar & rasam ‘only’) the greatest weakness for Hing.

Going south it is mostly used in ‘dal’ based curries like Sambar & Rasam. While almost all other spices have entered the side or main stream of other worlds, both in the east and the west, Asfoetida, to my knowledge remains only in the cuisine of South Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

This aromatic resin comes from certain species of the giant fennels, plants of the genus ferula. When the plants are about four or five years old, they develop very thick and fleshy, carrot shaped roots. The resin is collected from these roots just before the plants start flowering in spring or early summer. The milky resinous liquid soon coagulates when exposed to air. The color darkens when it is sun dried into a solid form (This was the block of resin in old LG tins). The trading form is either the pure resin or so-called “compounded asafetida” which is a fine powder consisting to more than 50% of rice flour and gum arabic to prevent lumping. In Farsi it is called Angozad. The ang from farsi morphed to become Hing in Hindi.

Old Iranian cuisine used it for flavoring meatballs and in Afghanistan it is used in the preparation of dried meat. Strangely, modern Iranian cooking does not use asfoetida (Afghans also do not normally use hing these days in their cooking, nor do Kashmiris use Hing except for a rare meat dish). People there, who harvested this plant from the wild used it as a barter in exchange for other foods from the warmer southern parts of India, such as pepper! ‘Asafoetida’ is known in different names depending upon the flavor, odor and color, such as ‘Heeng’ and ‘Hingra’ varieties and on the basis of place of origin, as ‘Irani Heeng’ and ‘Patani Heeng’. A Crore Rs worth of asfoetida imported from Iran and Afghanistan is sold for many multiples of crores by a few companies after adding rice flour and gum arabica. Much of what we reprocess into those yellow & white dubbas is also re-exported... (LG incidentally is Laljee Godhoo – The Khimjee merchant family’s millions came made from the 'stink of devil’s dung' since 1894, employs 152 people and holds 70% world market share – one of the best heritage brands of India). Look at the LG girl, does it seem like she had a good plateful of rasam?

Well, Hing did make a westerly voyage centuries back. And what happened? It got fancy names like şeytan tersi or devil’s shit in Turkey. The terms in other languages all mean pretty much the same, German Teufelsdreck, French merde du diable, Czech čertovo lejno, Latvian velna sūds, Swedish dyvelsträck all mean devil’s dung.. In Latin is means stinking spice – that is the literal translation of As-foetida.

It was also popular in herbal medicines, supposedly pretty good for ‘various women’s ailments’ impotence and hysteria. It is also an antidote to opium.. In Jamaica, asafetida is traditionally applied to a baby's forehead in order to prevent spirits from entering the baby. They say that asafoetida may even offer some protection against carcinogenesis. It is a constituent in the popular pill - Hajmola. Asafoetida grows in Kashmir and parts of Punjab (In Hindu mythology, Kailas was abode to many hing plantations!!), so India can cultivate asafoetida domestically. If you want to read the very interesting story of Nichro’s attempt to import the best Hing from Delhi to USA, read it here, It is well worth the click.

But who said life is not funny? Hing is used for other purposes, not just cooking and herbal medicine. Believe it or not….…in the manufacture of exquisite perfumes (they even extract vanilla out of Asfoetida and is a constituent in what they call ‘essential oils’ for many cosmetics and perfumes or as a fixative in oriental fragrances after removing the Sulphur parts)…So when you see a topnotch model peddling a 500$ perfume, remember the devil’s shit…

All that said and done, I can assure you, a proper south Indian Sambar or Rasam can never be complete without the right dose of Asfoetida. When done right, the aroma that wafts from that concoction, wherever you are, be it California or Manchester UK, will bring back whole memories of your entire life in South India…It is more than likely that this is the main smell that you can easily remember from your childhood in India.

Kayamkulam, a city in Kerala has its name derived from Hing (Kayam) and a pond (Kulam). I have no clue how this came about. This place had a lot of Buddhista and Jains many years ago. Did they make Hing powder or something in this city? The search for an answer took me to a very interesting ‘filmi’ story of the Malayali lady Divya Dayanandan who married the Pakistani Aman and their story involving conversions, visas, love, elopement, citizenship… and that, on another day…

Pics - various internet sites, thanks to the original contributors..


The Staffie Oatie

Takes me back two years - when I used to work in the sleepy town of Stafford at the UK, one or other of my colleagues would prepare & distribute a quick lunch at the office on friday noons for a small sum – stuff like burgers, pasties etc. This was convention, and I was slow on the take actually since they almost always made it with bacon or other meat that I did not quite like, not cooked to my liking at least. After a while the guys stopped asking since they did not have a variation suiting me.

However one day, one of them made something and called me to inform that it was vegetarian, filled with cheese. With great trepidation, I took a look at what he was making, before finalizing my reply. I was surprised; it looked like a limp Dosa actually. Then he put in the cheese, some hot chilly sauce, rolled it up and gave it to me. It was not too bad for a hungry stomach. The chap, a local lad from Stafford, stated that those were called Staffordshire oatcakes or Staffie Oaties. Then he asked me if I knew the history behind this oatcake and I confessed that I did not have the faintest. Apparently some Colonel (now why is it that Colonel’s always end up with the recipes?

Like our KFC Chicken colonel? Did they not have anything better to do?) from the Staffordshire regiment based in Madras during the late 19th century brought home the idea to UK. He and his blokes liked the Dosa in Madras very much and came back to try out all the combinations. After many efforts, a version was made with oatmeal and it is now the ever so popular Staffordshire oatcakes. Well the South Indian connoisseur will balk at the version, no doubt, but it was an interesting trivia …Instead of eating it with Chutney, Podi, Chammandi, Sambar and so on, they eat it with all kinds of hot sauces, with the oatcake packed like a masala dosa, together with bacon, fried eggs, meat, sausage, cheese and so on…Most people had forgotten the real origins and knowing only Chappati and Poppadom (remember our Shilpa Shetty & big brother crisis??) started equating the oatcake to both those Indian items, I am rather sure about this, it simply does not share any constituency with a Phulka or Pappadum.… So if you Google around, you may find it called as ‘Potteries Poppodum’

Some even call it an ‘oatcake – a produce from the gods’. To sum up – it looks & tastes much like our Wheat dosa or Gothambu dosa…Imagine, some even consider this oatcake an aphrodisiac…well, the dosa does not do any such thing..

You can find a number of Staffordshire oatcake recipes on the BBC Stoke site. Staffies are very fond of it and Stoke on Trent incidentally is a place close to Stafford. All the famous potteries were located in Stoke, once upon a time but today it is mainly home to a lot of people of foreign origin – like Pakistanis, Africans, Arabs etc…

As one magazine article explains: "What divides Britain – more surely than accent or class – is where you can find the Staffordshire Oatcake". And another, while asking "Well, how do you eat yours?" goes on to say: "Whatever your preference, you can bet that you'll be eating this regional food exclusively in only one corner of the world, and for those of you who are reading this article outside North Staffordshire, I'm talking about the oatcake – that is, the oatcake of the Potteries and its surrounding towns". Nothing at all like its Scottish or Derbyshire cousins, it has the appearance of a moist pancake, or crêpe, and is made (usually from a 'secret' recipe) largely from oatmeal and yeast. 

To some, it's the 'Oat cuisine' of The Potteries; others still describe it as the 'Tunstall tortilla', 'Potteries poppadom', or 'Clay suzette'. Oatcakes tend mostly to be eaten warm, with the choice of sweet or savoury filling placed on the top and then rolled into a 'wrap'. And while an increasing number of leading restaurants and teashops now include them on the menu, they remain one of the healthiest of all fast foods. Not to mention (according to some) an aphrodisiac! Described as a "delicacy in its own right", the oatcake is longed-for by Potteries' 'exiles', and has won fans for as long as it has been made. TV celebrity chef Lesley Waters is one of its greatest fans. Jane Grigson is a convert. And Rick Stein waxed lyrical about them on TV. Though, not quite as lyrically as artist and poet Arthur Berry, who penned an Ode to the Oatcake – and who also issued the warning that: over-indulgence can lead to bulgence. – Jane Randall Stoke City tourism manager

This page links all other BBC Staffie Oatie pages.

Oatcake origin - The word oatcake is acually a derivation of 'hosecake ' and dates from the time of the Chartist riots in the 19th century, when there was an acute shortage of shoe leather. It was found that when oats were mixed with water and baked it was equally as tough as leather and could be used as a substitute, hence hosecake. When the leather shortage was over, since their was no further use for the hosecake, the locals decided to eat them and the name was changed to oatcakeBill Carr - Fegg Hayes, Stoke-on-Trent

There are even more connections between the dosa, Stafford, dogs and Madras. Dosa is a Korean dog (actually called Tosa)…and well, in Korea they did eat dogs. Staffordshire terrier – is a famous breed of dog that was brought to madras by the Brits. But Staffie oaties are as explained, a distant relative of our South Indian Dosa.