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Category Archives: Food & Foodies

In defence of coffee

I daresay coffee has it only a trifle better than guinea pigs when it comes to scientific study. I have read about coffee being good for your liver, bad for your skin and bad for your liver the next time I checked. The stores boast of rich product portfolios of trillions of types of coffee – decaffeinated, hazel, expresso, everything but the kitchen sink – and I have seen health freaks twist their nose in distaste when offered a brew.

On winter mornings, I downright cherish – what’s a stronger word, treasure – my cup of steaming coffee which I partake of from a seat by the window. These are usually mornings when I do not need to be out in the maddening crowd or spend a divine day trapped in some godforsaken bit of work, but can stare into nothingness, think about the rest of the beautiful day, and watch the cows come home.

When the health freaks make me their object of distaste, and I feel benevolent enough to let them feel good about themselves, I casually replace my coffee with the bitterest concoction of green-tea in my possession.

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The Sharmas in Karol Bagh

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Roshan Di Kulfi

It was a white, wintry day. Mr Sharma and his wife stood outside Roshan Di Kulfi – the old, Karol Bagh restaurant – waiting for a table. They looked enviously at a group of college children, busy eating with plates in their hands. There was a time when Mr Sharma too could eat while standing. He would come along to the restaurant with his wife, then girlfriend, and order two plates of papdi chaat. It had come as a pleasant surprise the first time they visited, the fact that the place also served food other than kulfi. Now, however, his hands shook too much. Worse still in Delhi’s biting winter.

Karol Bagh hustled and bustled as always, with shops selling everything from designer sarees and sherwanis, to dry fruits, bags and pickles. Winter had clearly not dampened trade. In recent years, more contemporary eating joints had sprung up in the market. Nonetheless, thought Mrs Sharma, nothing could match Roshan Di Kulfi’s golgappe, dahi bhalla and of course, kulfi falooda.

Sometimes, Delhi’s chill seemed tailor-made for eating. Wasn’t it bliss to gorge on gajar ka halwa, jalebi and hot coffee when the winds raged outside? Roshan Di Kulfi had on display a vast selection of sweets right in the storefront. It made the Karol Bagh air fragrant, festive and too tempting to resist. If anything held back Mr Sharma from sampling a plateful of everything, it was his old age. It was a pity, he thought, that he had to go and get old. He would love a plateful of steaming chana bhatura. Why couldn’t time reverse itself, if only for a while?

Even at 4 in the evening, odd hours for heavy eating, the place was jam-packed. Mrs Sharma settled on the chair and looked around first at the crowd, then at her husband. They had been married thirty-five years, the first ten of which her husband had spent introducing her to new cuisines. She often regretted how she now had to be watchful of his diet, and stop him from eating much of his favourite food.

“What shall I get you, Ma’am?” the waiter enquired.

“How about two plates of chana bhatura?” Mrs Sharma smiled at her husband, who in turn was delighted enough to give her a wide, toothy grin.

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Dilwaalon Ki Dilli

For all the badmouthing that Delhi receives, there lies herein undying charm. Every Wednesday, find on Saddi Delhi a fresh story from life in the capital. Right from delicious food in Delhi’s alleyways to dreamy winters that paint the skies white.

For a tour through Delhi, from then and now, click here.

The Big-Bong Wedding Larder

Bengali Wedding Food

*Picture from The Hindu

With my housemates gearing up for the wedding in February, there’s ceaseless discussion on food. The talks gather steam after I am back from work. Though delicious in themselves, the talks render bland whatever it is that I am snacking on. You see, how can I be expected to cherish a sandwich when people are deliberating upon chicken kosha, mutter-paneer and daal tadka? I sit drooling and chewing, wishing the day were upon us already. It is another story – quite sad really – that I will not be able to enjoy any of the delicious food that is being planned. The bride and groom will sit atop the stage, smiling beatifically for the shutterbugs, as the guests lick off their plates.

“How many times of fish will we have?” a friend of mine asked cheerfully. “I am expecting at least three. After all, it is a Bengali wedding. Will there be hilsa?” “I suppose so.” I tried to casually remember how hilsa looked but I am afraid I wasn’t discreet enough. “Oh, I had forgotten. You are only a pseudo-Bengali. The no-fish-eating type.” Ha, so much for wearing Mom’s best sarees on Durga Puja and memorizing Bengali hymns as a child of five. My abstinence from fish renders me a pseudo-Bengali among most people I associate with.

On the other hand, a lot of people R knows assume I am a “Bong from Kolkata”. “So R,” they declare loudly, “you will now be off to Kolkata for fuchka and chingree maach every now and then!” (Read panipuri/golgappa and prawns, respectively) “Actually, she is a Delhi-ite.” R ventures. “Oh, all Bongs are Kolkata-ish in their hearts.” I wonder what that implies. Do all Gujaratis live in Ahmedabad or all Punjabis in Punjab? Last I heard, this wasn’t the case. What is worse is that since I have spent very little time in Kolkata, I am not always up to conversation pertaining to localities, landmarks and eating joints. I don’t fancy the chicken-and-egg dishes and prefer coffee to tea. All this again renders me a pseudo-Bengali. Sheesh, this is almost an identity crisis.

Meanwhile, the family keeps the larder stocked “in case friends and relatives hop over”. There’s tonnes of goodies to ensure I need to substantially up my resolve for diet management. Brilliant method to teach a bride-to-be self- control.

“Will you continue to like aloo-luchi next year or will litthi-chokha be your new favourite?” The friend who calls me a pseudo-Bengali pretended to be perturbed.

I too am slightly perturbed. I sincerely hope that the cameramen, the wedding finery and the shehnaayi will succeed in keeping R and my minds off the aroma of food.

*I am willing to discuss in-depth any of the food items mentioned in the post. :D

New Beginnings this Mahalaya

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Durga Puja @ Durga Bari

A whole month has gone by and P&P has been deserted. The dust of negligence has settled on the menu; the archives have developed strain with being shifted to the backburner so very often. This morning, however, marks a change. And no wonder, it’s Mahalaya.

In my mind, the last set-of-weeks is clubbed into one big, unpalatable blob. A lot has gone into its making – sleepless nights, piles of work, irritable moods and a constant crunch for time. Not a recipe I would ever like to re-experience. There is something, however, that tells me I will have this dish shoved down my throat again. But until the time comes, I am all set for delicious Durga Puja fare, beginning very soon.

Mahalaya marks the end of Pitripaksha and the beginning of Devipaksha. Simply put, it squeals –“Durga Puja is here in less than a week!” When I was younger, I would wake up at the strike of dawn and tune in to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s awe-inspiring recitation of Mahalaya. I would hum “Bajlo Je Tomar…” when the song came and spend the rest of the day jumping around in glee. Today, back home after that blob of a time, I couldn’t manage the dawn thingy. But, I was delighted to discover that the charm of the day lingers on still…resplendent with the glory of former days and warm with the promise of delight.

Today, the air is fragrant with hope (not to forget, err, the whiff of gastronomic wonders). Understandably so, considering the Goddess is visiting her home, complete with her family. For a few days that pass by quicker than sand off the fingers, we will deck up in our finest finery. We will lick our fingers as we dig into cutlets, momos and biryani. We will click pictures of the fairy lights and tap our feet to the music in the winds. And before we know it, winter will wrap her snow-white hands around Delhi.

Here’s wishing everyone a Shubho Mahalaya. Please lend me a hand in warding the evil of neglect off my darling P&P.

The Sign-Board

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*Prize Winning Entry in Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger’s “How Does Modern Healthcare touch Lives?” Contest*

He walked past the board every morning. It was on the way to work, standing in all its freshly-painted, large-visual glory. He would stare at it through the corner of his eye, as his car halted at the traffic light, and then proceed to indulge in a breakfast of vegetable patties in the cafeteria. The food-vendor ensured he made them with extra oil and potato, just as he liked them best.

It had been several years since he had joined his current company as a software engineer. He wasn’t keen on jumping onto the management bandwagon; the truck seemed way too full anyway. Coding still enthralled him and he beamed when he solved even seemingly mundane problems in innovative ways. Back at home, his parents would sigh. How do you manage to sit at your desk job every day and not grow plump? He would laugh about his amazing metabolism. The truth – his ever growing err, tyres, and slightly protruding belly – remained hidden under well fitted clothing.

“I think I will skip the gulab jamun, tempting though it looks.” His brother-in-law made a rather sorrowful face as he pushed the tray aside.

He had always been a funny man – too uptight with his dietary regulations. “Really, calling you to meals is pretty useless.” He sighed, picking up the rejected gulab jamun happily.

“Diabetes, no less. Add to that a serious cholesterol problem. I cannot afford to play around with these credentials.”

His wife nodded furiously, glaring at him. “It wouldn’t do you harm to adopt that kind of policy. Anyway,” she shook her head, “you don’t get any exercise.”

Really, when the two got together, he almost felt as if he was back in school.

Come to think of it, he used to live a ‘healthier’ life. Every evening after school, he would rush to the cricket ground. The green grass would get tremendous thrashing until one day they disallowed playing in the park. In college days, he had even joined a gym. But those muscles never shaped and his enthusiasm waned after a fortnight. But it was primarily after starting work that exercise was erased from his schedule.  Packed hours and insane deadlines, after all, don’t go well with fancy buzzwords such as work-life balance.

These days he had heard, there was a solution for every ailment. Even for the dreary cancers and tumours which had destroyed several households over the ages. Modern healthcare brought to people cure and care, and packaged with insurance and sensible savings, in a manner affordable for the masses. Amidst such advancement, the problems his sedentary life posed seemed too trivial to acknowledge.

*

The brother-in-law was ill. He lay prostrate in a hospital ward, a tiny potted-plant lying beside him on the mantlepiece.

“A sudden cardiac arrest,” his wife sobbed, “while he was peacefully watching television.”

“How is he now?” he asked hesitantly, unwilling to look her in the eye. If the brother-in-law with his school-boyish dietary regime and impossible restrictions could fall prey to trouble, he was a prey asking to be hunted. He saw his wife continue to sob and put a comforting arm around her shoulder. The nurses were busy, so were the hands of the large clock on the wall. Much of the world continued to swipe in and out of offices, cognizant of only the evening and the weekend to come. He, however, was on leave today.

The next morning, his car stopped by the board again. The road was abuzz with rush-hour traffic, cars honking away to glory. He took out his appointment diary and a pen from the bag.

“Billion Hearts Beating” he wrote. This morning, instead of using the quiet morning hour to delve into an oily breakfast, he would call for an Apollo Health Check Up.

*written for “How does Modern Healthcare touch lives?” contest by Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger

To read more about modern lifestyles and healthcare, go here.

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