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As yet another Onam is round the corner, Nellara Vellan Vaidyan braces up to prepare ethnic dishes of even more excellent variety. For, the tribal sexagenarian is an acclaimed cook with specialisation in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items that are fast disappearing from the recipe of a grand culinary heritage belonging to the Western Ghats of southern India. The food Vellan prepares may be commonplace for the members of fellow Adivasi Kuruma community far and near his native Nellarachal close to scenic Ambalavayal, but it is nothing short of exotica for the typical visitor to the northeast Kerala district of Wayanad. Vellan, all the same, has another area of expertise. For more than four decades, he has been a tribal physician who prescribes herbal medicines that are mo...

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