What do you do when you can’t cook or don’t have a kitchen or don’t have the time or don’t have, oh well, you get the idea – so what do you do? Naturally, you eat out. But what do you do when you miss salt and spice and all things nice in all that you order? You then order paneer. Coming to you in delicious sounding varieties like paneer tikka masala, paneer butter masala and paneer pasanda, you soon find yourself trapped in the alluring paneer cycle, for lack of anything else worth risking.
If you happen to be a Northern-er used to tadkewali daal that’s thick and syrupy and spicy sabjis that have more than a generous sprinkling of nature’s priciest spices, then your taste buds are bound to be in for major acclimatization when you arrive in Maharashtra.
More so, obviously, if low-end restaurants are the ones you frequent. Everything tastes sweet, dull if you please and much too uniform. It’s a wonderful lesson in compromise when you find yourself settling for the panacea – paneer! What goes along of course is tawa pulao – served burnt and crisp and eaten standing or sitting on bikes parked around the dozens of crowded ‘Coffee Shops’. Among lots of ikre-tikre and bits of roti-chapati conflicts, you learn to order masala buttermilk 1/2 and 1/3 and make a face if some place claims to be too fancy to obey.
Then comes a time when your pockets jingle not with coins but rustle with notes. You land up in the sorts of Shiv Sagar and Rajwada and amble through the entire JM Road chain. You now find yourself more comfortable ordering a Rs 60/- cheese cherry salad that comes to 10 a piece. Chinese is your best bet then as it has the advantage of not being easy to manipulate into sweetness. As a strictly maintained bank balance meant to pay off house rents and internet bills lures you now and then into believing you can blow some of it down the fountain, you walk up the overpriced E Square food court and pay 50 bucks for a soft fizzy drink that’s gone before you can blink. Naans and butter kulchas now complement your much adored tawa pulao. You order veg angaras and kohlapuris like an expert and sugary sweet gravies are no longer an issue.
It is then that you know you aren’t an outsider anymore.