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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

People watching at corn stall in front of Pazhamudhir Cholai:

Mr.Stoned – Rendu corn.(Starts walking away looking like he just landed on Earth from an alien spaceship and for the love of his life, doesn’t understand where he is or what he is doing.)

Corn Guy – Saar, saar… Cup aa stick aa??

Mr.Stoned – uh?? haaa…. Apdi na?

Corn Guy – (picks up a cup in one hand and a whole corn kernel in other hand and posing exactly like these telemarketers selling dandruff creams on tv) Cup aaaaa, stick aaaaa??

Mr.Stoned – Uh… cup (and starts walking away again)

Corn Guy – Saar, yenna flavour?

Mr.Stoned – huh??

Corn Guy – Pepper and saltu, butter and saltu, masala.

Mr.Stoned – (mumbles like his voice is too precious for the world to hear it)Yennavo podunga.

Corn Guy – (slowly starting to sound like my mother when she’s about to yell at me for something) Eating aa packing aa?

Mr.Stoned – Eh?? haaa…. ummm… (looks towards the Fruit stall and starts walking as if he’s attracted towards it by the undiscovered magnetic field of oranges and apples) Yedho pannunga pannunga…

Now Corn Guy starts muttering under his breath and making the corn. Well, i did strain my ears to catch the pleasant things he was saying but unfortunately he wasn’t loud enough. He goes on to pack two cups of plain corn and then got back to his other customers. After a solid 10 mins, our guy comes out of the fruit stall empty handed, walks right next to the corn stall without as much as glancing at it, and continues walking out of the gate.

Corn Guy – Saaarrrr, saaaaaaaarrr……. Yoooooovvvvvvvv!!

Mr. Stoned has safely crossed the road.

Corn Guy – Saavu kraaki, vandhu serraanunga paaru, $#@$#, $$#!# <insert (in)appropriate family/mother/sister scolding here>

My genuine kostin : Ganja vaa illa patta saaraayama??

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Ms.Salwar kameez with gym shoes (hereafter referred to as Ms.SKWGS) – Annaaaa…annaaaa

Corn Guy doesn’t seem too pleased with this newly forming paasamalar relationship.

“One cup corn. Half steamed. No pepper. No salt. No butter. No chat masala. ”

Corn guy mutters under his breath ‘Corn aavadhu podalaama illa adhuvum venaama’ which Ms. SKWGS conveniently ignores. He hands her the cup starts to make the next one.

“Annaaa, this corn is too steamed. I want half steamed only.”

Corn guy gives her a blank look and bends down again.

“Can you just take some corn seperately and heat it just for 3 and a half minutes with0ut adding water and give me. Annaaaa?? This is just killing all the nutrients in the corn. It is not at all healthy…”

“Dha paaru maa..Venaaam na vechittu poikittee iru.”

Ms.SKWGS mutters “Kaasu kuduthiten la.. Yaen solla maata” and walks away.

My genuine kostin: Ivlo healthy ya saaptu yenna dhaan saadhikka poreenga??

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Very rotund aunty balancing two bags filled with grocery, one more with fruits and yelling into phone while giving instructions to the Corn Guy.

“Oru corn. Cup.” Goes back to yelling into the phone to Chinnu who apparently has chosen not to do the day’s homework.

“Yenna flavor madam? Pepper and saltu, butter and saltu…”

“Butter. Chinnuuuuu, Amma solradhu kekala night pizza vaangi thara maaten. ”

“Madam masala podalaama?”

“B-U-T-T-E-R. CHINUUUU… Kadhula vizhudha illaya daaaaa???”

“Ummmm madam, pepper….”

“BUTTER PODUNGA. YETHANA THADAVA SOLRADHU?? NERAYA PODUNGA. CHINNUU… PIZZA VA UPMA VA? OZHUNGA HOMEWORK PANNU!!”

Now corn guy seems really scared and puts three spoonfuls of butter into the small cup of corn and thrusts it humbly into the aunty’s hands.

She got into a waiting car and screamed at the driver to go to….. well,no points for guessing this one. Pizza Hut.

Ok, We get it. Butter. Cheese. Pizza. Anything fattening.

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P.S. No, you are not allowed to ask whether I was so vetti and jobless to eavesdrop on a sweet corn seller’s conversation for so long. It is known. It is understood. Move on.

Moral of the story – Selling corn is a tough job.

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The Food Bond

The other day I was at Ratna Café, a quaint little restaurant with a formidable reputation for the best idli-sambhar in all of Chennai. I’ve never been there before and as I entered the waft of fragrant sambhar hit me hard. Taking a corner seat, I looked around to see about 30 people eating there and all of them eating only idli-sambhar! I mean, I’ve heard of staple food and all that but 30 people gobbling up idlis drowning in a sea of sambhar as if it was elixir was a bit of a shock for me. Not a single person had dared to order for any other dish. I asked the waiter for a menu card and he gave me a have-you-just-landed-from-Mars look and pointed to a blackboard with some five items scribbled on it. Topmost on it written in bold was IDLI-SAMBHAR. Fine.

“I’ll have…”

He cut me short. “Idli Sambhar? Ok. Anything else?”

“But I never asked for idli-sambhar”

He repeated the ‘mars’ look mentioned above with some added dosage of incredulity and asked slowly as if trying to let the fact sink in.

“So you don’t want to eat idli-sambhar”

So it was some sort of hideous crime to go to Ratna Café and not eat idli-sambhar, I understood.

I gave up. “Ok, idli-sambhar. And a plate of sambhar vada. And coffee” Now he gave me a ‘are-you-going-to-eat-all-this-yourself’ look. Oh please, can’t a girl have a ‘healthy appetite??’ I gave a stare and he slunk away uneasily.

Two minutes ticked away. Our waiter arrived with a plate of fluffy white idlis and placed it before me. He had a large jug in his hand and I adjusted the water tumbler so that he could pour some water for me. Only thing the jug happened to contain sambhar and not water. He emptied the sambhar on top of the idlis. Now I had two large, soft, fluffy idlis swimming tantalizingly in a jug full of sambhar before my eyes. I broke off a piece and out it into my mouth. My eyes closed automatically and the mouth went hmmmmmmmm… Divine is the word to describe the feeling. It’s the closest I’ve been to Moksha. The sambhar drenched spongy idlis just melted in my mouth and I couldn’t stop myself from a second helping. And a third. Err and then there was the vada which was another heavenly experience. And the filter coffee made with the right mix of freshly ground coffee beans and milk with sugar was the perfect way to round it all off

I was still in a trance when I walked out of Ratna Café. I had this immediate urge to sit somewhere and write about food. Good food can do so much to the soul. And being a true foodie, I have a lot of memories associated with food. A lot of interesting, funny or plain day to day bonding over good food, bad food, ok food….

My first brush with bad food was during college hostel days. Having been pampered all along with mom’s cooking, hostel food was a VERY rude shock.

Breakfast: Stony idlis or pathetic dosas with muddy brown sambhar. Those dishes where an insult to the original idla-dosa-sambhar but we had no go. Else we had bread that seemed to have been made during the stone age and a small coin sized amount of a butter look-alike to go with it. And the milk/tea/coffee was primarily hot water with a drop of the actual milk/tea/coffee to provide an illusion of having drunk the thing. My guess is that they made one small cup of tea everyday and added enough water to serve 80 people

Lunch: Rice with assorted insects falling from the mess roof, leftover muddy brown sambhar from morning, greenish algae like concoction which formed the vegetable component and sour curd.

Dinner: don’t remember since I hardly ever remember having dinner in the mess. It always used to be biscuits or cheap tapioca chips or cup noodles. It was later that I understood why the hostel canteen is called a mess. Simply because it is a MESS.

But the bad food always gave us, the gang of friends, so much to bond over. We spent hours in the college stores each night, talking over tapioca chips and soft drinks (paupers that we were back then we hardly had money for anything better), afraid to set foot into the mess for dinner. And when one of us was really famished and starts showing signs of cannibalism we rushed off to the ‘city’ (my college was some 50 kms on the outskirts of a city!) for some real food. Hot Chips (the baby corn crispy chilly fry was our favorite!) or MarryBrown or Pizza Hut – it all depended on the budgetary constraints. Sometimes we used to get ready for college half-heartedly and suddenly change our minds about actually going to college, take a bus to the city to do some window shopping and eat chocolate cake at Nilgiris or if we were high on money, lunch at Wang’s. Later after we all started making our own money, Barista and Coffee day were within reach but still nothing could beat gossip over maanga and molagapodi at besi beach and dinner at MIK. By the way, MIK isn’t some fancy Italian eatery, its our dear old Murugan Idli Kadai 😛 Still remember how some five or seven of us used to yell “butter onion uthappam” all at once at a shell shocked waiter and look at the butter coated uttappam reverently once it arrived. Back home me and dad had this weekend tradition of ending an evening walk with bajjis and piping hot tea at a roadside tea shop. How I used to look forward to those chai sessions which were filled with loads of leg-pulling, teasing and discussions on politics, sports and current affairs!! The joy of laughter, chatter and harmless gossip with family and friends over some good food is something that can never be substituted. Atleast for hard core foodies like me.

The irony now is that everyone has the money to afford luxurious dining but the luxury of spending time together is not there. But bonding over food with near and dear still tops the list of my most favorite to-do things. After all, who can resist the pleasure of biting into a juicy burger or tearing of a piece of butter dripping uthappam when it comes along with the warmth and company of loved ones? Nah!! Not me!!!! 🙂

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