Dreams in which you lie in bed and literally drool! It must have happened to most. It often happens to me.
I’m at a sumptuous dinner or party with food that is the envy of even the Romans and all their Gods. Sometimes it will be the typical wedding food in a Keralite Hindu wedding, sometimes the aromatic Byriani and pulsating mutton curry of the Muslim folks amply proportioned with ghee and at times it will also be the grandeur of the food at a Christian wedding. I would be in anxious hurry and impatience to grab the food and stuff it down, sometimes I will be trying to stretch to grab it even, but alas I cannot move my hand or it superficially perceives the food then I wake up with a forlorn jolt, drooling, literally. The realization dawns that it was not only a dream but a nightmarish end to feel now that I missed the whole tempting array of cuisine.
Then I slip back into the abyss of slumber, with stupor of the dog that was shown the fascinating piece of bone and taken away with cruel audacity.
Food, the one that tickles, and pleasures the taste buds and the mind, that gives the heart its ever eluding content has been my fascination.
I sit back to recollect the times I have had food that stays in the heart and long each day that I be consigned to a remote island paradise where I and just me alone will enjoy all that every day , is not ephemeral and it never ends, . A life in Shangri-La!
The best of the country side food of Kerala devoured in the thatched tenement straddling the green paddy fields that tango in the breeze that is incessant, was like paradise brought down to me. I had that many times, but one, a particular time and place was heavenly simple and plain. Spirit that even Gods will not resist (the Kerala toddy) complimented by well cooked tapioca in coconut and tagged with the wonderfully dangerous looking Valla (a kind of fish found in Kerala back waters and rivulets) curry. Supplemented with roasted duck, frog legs, roasted pork garnished with coconut slices and the Entreat the appam with chicken curry in fried coconut gray. Beef ollathiathu (roasted) being an added indulgence. I wished after, and knew I would not mind, if my heart ceased to throb it would be with content.
Once I went to a wedding reception in Chennai. It was a Muslim wedding. The food served was of only a few dishes unlike the Christian and Hindu weddings in Kerala that never ends and stays on course after course. The Byriani with chunks of juicy mutton garnished with ghee, roasted chicken sprinkled with sliced onions and tomatoes sautéed with amazing composition of masala, a tremendously subjugating curry of brinjal, and then came the dessert carrot halwa in ghee. I still can at times smell that food though ten and plus years have elapsed since.
Once I and C went for a nonsense called Yoga class, which was a discourse with gimmicks by a widely known man in ocher robes. It was a three day event in Chennai, and what kept us glued there was the lunch they served which was pure vegetarian. I do not recall the dishes but exquisite were they, I’m yet to taste any that will match let alone rival that.
Steak! Versions of that are many. Often we are forced to agree that the chunk of meat grilled and peppered can also be termed “steak”. But the best and the unrivalled buffalo steak was served to me and C while we were in Jackson. There can never be any steak that can be juicy and enhancing as that. It was the feeling, the fear that the hotel staff that waited on us would see us gluttonous Indians that we desisted from asking for a repeat of the dish.
Shewarma, the misleading regional versions were attractive, until I ate the beef shewarma at a Turkish joint in Johannesburg. It was rolled in bread as big as a huge Nan. Rolled and stuffed without a wee bit space with meat, mayonnaise, grated cabbage, and mustard sauce with other condiments. I kept licking my fingers and sucking my thump till the end of the day.
There is a very mundane, but nostalgic variety among the cuisine I long for each day. The India Coffee Houses are quite famous for their coffee, maslaa dosa and brisk service, besides other dishes. The masala dosa from the ICH as the outlets are called have the same taste and aroma from Srinagar to KanyaKumari. A plate of MD as the masala dosa’s are called, complimented with Mutton -Omelet and signing off with aromatic coffee will eclipse any depression and augment rejuvenation. No exaggeration. Each morning I wish for the MD and MO.
But finally I reach to the food that most of us in the family, I’m sure, miss now. The local Kerala cuisine that my mother’s sister used to cook. It is true that no food can rival the ones mothers’ cook. But when traded with her sister’s gifted hands, the dishes my mother cooks come second only. The fish fry, the mackerel curry in grounded coconut and coriander powder with the tangy –sour fruit , kodam pulli( (seen only in Kerala), the simple beans thoran , the avial , the olan( sliced potato in coconut milk with peas and green chilly), the theeyal ( drum stick and yam slices cooked in fried coconut and coriander gravy),the sambar , the prawn theeyal and prawn fry roasted with liberal dose of onion slices, and what else! I have not come across yet another array of food ,prepared ,which aids with amazing content - the taste buds and leaves the soul in peace.
It was akin to ambrosia if not one!