15 days into this whole quarantine thing and I’m absolutely NOT missing the social life already. Not yet at least. Cut to all the hype however of how introversion is overrated or even ‘not the way to be’ and we would have had no chance this tough time around. But there’s one thing that has seriously gotten into the way of my daily routine as much as I might be raving about the home time. And that to my very bad stroke of luck has everything to do with the most orgasmic of all pleasures in life- food!
Before you think I am perhaps famished to death, let me clear the air out- we still haven’t run out that basic stock of dal- chawal- aloo or necessities like cookies and biscuits (read ‘crème’ biscuits) or even the luxuries of today’s times that we have forever gorged on as Maggi or pasta or stuff. (Just for the record, I also have a couple of chocolates stacked up secretly- and exclusively- for my greedy self- just in case the craving gets too real to be curbed.) And while I know this is no reason for complaining specially in the realm of the times we are living in, perhaps I’m too much gluttonous of a fellow to be (forever) contented by the pleasurable deliciousness of puri- alu bhaji or the abominable indulgence in momos and even the ultimate comfort of a simple dish of khichdi and aloo bor.
But before you chide me already for the seemingly ‘demanding’ snob I supposedly am even in grave times like these, I need to be issuing all clarifications- it’s not that simple food does not appeal to me nor am I unfazed about how food is now more for sustenance than it is for gastronomic revelry. For someone who can happily gobble up bread toast for every breakfast or a serving of rice with some butter and ample sugar every meal while devouring also the classic roti– cheeni with no qualms at all, this is one really unfussy foodie here. What however is now appeasing to the tongue isn’t a matter I can be much controlling of and therefore all this untimely clamour as a khokua fellow.
So while there’s obviously this craving for some good ol’ manghko- bhaat or some crunchy fish fries, it’s not always the meaty things my allegiance owes to. Though it indeed feels like ages since a piece of juicy succulent chicken leg piece has hit my teeth or all my appetite has undergone a 2x intensity of irresistible delight at the mere sight of a fiery chicken curry, there’s more to me than just meat (all ominous references to be avoided for the sake of again, ‘times like these’).
With so much unwarranted time at our disposal and with such limited food stuff, my mind inadvertently goes to times of the good ol’ past, dwelling sometimes in nostalgia of childhood and sometimes in our own hurried efforts of stacking up wholesome meals as an absolute paisa wasool celebration of Sundays.
Wafting smells of puri- ghoogni and suji halwa emanates from those childhood days, when every morning that did not require us to get ready for school would greet us in all the beauty of the world. Tearing into those crunchy, puffy phulkas and dipping it in some aloo- laced ghoogni and one fourth of a cup of kadak desi milk tea (because children shouldn’t drink enough milk tea. Sigh!) was sheer heaven. The accompanying suji halwa or sometimes the sewaiyyan bowl used to indeed be the icing on the cake, that we used to relish in ‘slow slow, maaje lo’ fashion, as every morsel spelled euphoria for us kids!
Growing up however, out of schools and into colleges, we began finding our own foothold in the kitchen and leisurely breakfast spreads became our responsibility. And boy, did we ace the diversity! From recreating mom’s roti- sabzi to going our own way with homemade part kachori- part namkeens, and an occasional serving of new discoveries like gur halwa or healthy makhana kheer or the exerting gajar ka halwa or even the desi but hitherto unencountered bowl of daliya kheer, complemented of course by cups of still kadak, still desi milk tea, breakfasts were no less than any celebration.
So alluring was the most important meal of the day at least for me that even hurried breakfast had me rolling out a couple of chappatis and generously douse them with butter or else savour them with mom made sabzi and tea, no matter how little time I had for getting ready or even how I could absolutely not afford to miss the first class. It was more a ritual of indulgence than it was of eating well that all my life I have always looked forward to breakfast!
Imagine then for such a brekky loving soul, more than a couple of days now and all I have had as the morning ritual is roti with omelette and I couldn’t feel more famished. It’s only that cup of kadak chai that rescues me otherwise I have never been a fan of omelettes and never more of pairing it with roti.
With morning rituals somewhat obscurely ruined, lunch isn’t anything I particularly look forward to. Usual fare of dal- sabzi- aloo pitika and pickles or papad or salad is what is doing the rounds but I am neither fazed nor unfazed by it. Because it’s the morning that has already shown me my day, there isn’t much to expect from the main meal either. Nor do I care anyways. Because like I proclaimed, I was the snacky brekky soul and not the wholesome lunchy ones.
Which brings me of course to yet another sad juncture of present day existence. The kadak chai loving genes that I have inherited means that I cannot possibly do without my evening cuppa(s). And while the sheer delight of that aromatic cup of dense milk tea with that floating layer of whatever that pretty slurpy thing is called is enough to arouse my spirits and keep me captivated, how possibly could I be forfeiting the delectable addiction of those crunchy nibbles?
Which means one perfect cuppa is fine by itself but the very next holding calls for some company! And while the absolutely equalistic soul in me does up virtually everything with delirious pleasure, there are times when that same soul starts sorting priorities, much to my own disdain! So after having happily snacked on namkeens and bhujiyas and chips, biscuits and cookies and packaged cakes, homemade pakoras or malpuas or toasts or whatever nibbles had been there the past fortnight, it’s time to get a bit adamant and start having preferences for cravings!
So here it goes! What I now want has surpassed the sweet burst of cream biscuits or the pretty sight of Little Hearts or even the moist texture of cakes in packs. I badly crave the heavenly smell that freshly baked bakery cakes and cookies or even breads sit reassuringly boastful in, the somewhat biteous texture they are characteristic of and also those chunks of badam or raisins that delightfully jolt me out of the gliding sense of their surreptitious essence!
I really do want to risk going out for some sweets to satiate my ravenous cravings if only sweet stuff had indeed counted as really essential even in this hour of crisis. The soft, spongy feel of those rasgullas drenched in all that sugary syrup; the tender rasmalais that sit decadently amidst all that tub of milk; the smiling, sinful jalebis dripping tons of oil from them; the hot and piping yet super soft and juicy gulab jamuns; the khasta kala jamuns; the grainy besan barfis; the sweet and simple pedas; the nutty kaju katlis; the pretty flower shaped mithaais with also a sophisticated spread of jelly on them; the plump motichoor ke ladoos residing in their own world of ghee; the super sweet gojas; the rusky and crunchy dry cakes; the colorful, sprinklers laden, exotic looking pastries and the super engaging cheesecakes; the slight pista green hued otherwise milky white kalakands; the dense appeal of the mohanthaal; the equally dense milky essence that the rajbhogs rest in; the tear apart flakey feel of the soanpapdis – there isn’t really any end to the many sweet cravings that I am feeling at the moment!
And for those wondering about my obsession for all things sweet, that’s not the only world I am currently unable to step into. Equally regretting them being amiss from my regular binging of delectables are the khasta kachoris waiting to be devoured in all their spicy, flakey might; those myriad curd laced khatti- meethi chaats; and of course that heavenly, quite otherworldly combination of bundiya- bhujiya; not to forget the mitha puchkas and mawa kachoris that leave all their drippy essence lingering on my fingers, and even our very own humble but lip smackingly diverse array of pithas and larus- I swear I have never been drooling so bad my entire life!
And how could I miss mentioning the variety of new entrees into the snack domain? With a Little Hearts strawberry up in the offing, a Cadbury Chocobakes cookie fresh out of the oven and even a choco brownie Cornetto in the cool icecream space, just how long would I be made to wait to tingle my taste buds with these new flavorful emergences? Or going by the present circumstance, should I rather speculate- when, if ever at all?
Cut to the moment however and all I have in my treasure box now are a few biscuits and a handful of messy but purposeful crumbs even as two and a half cake slice lingers there somewhere in now quite non alluring a sight. And I sure deserve no more than this since all these years into the world and I should have learned to bake a cake by myself or at least roll out a couple pithas or else tried to make some sweet nothings apart from the easy breezy halwas and stuff. The too lazy, too unexcited, too dismissive of that pervasive ‘taken for granted’ prevalence me is destined to let life while away in wails and wallows. If only my soul would accept that too!
But as my greedy tummy sends me vivid images of luchi- chola dal, butter slathered paneer parathas, chicken patties or a plateful of rabri drenched jalebis along with some trending Dalgona coffee (quite pathetically I am even out of coffee) as assertation of its demand for gourmetic indulgence, there is something I sure am quite missing out- Empathy. As workers sleep away days on water, as doctors and medical staff barely find the time to eat, as policemen continue being on duty even with hunger in stride, as sanitation workers kill off their appetite as they do away with the germs, it perhaps is the manifestation of selective human degradation that I am entertaining.
For someone sitting in the comfort of their homes, with their lappie up, front and personal even as snacks and nibbles means rounds to the kitchen are not few and far between, I do not have any damn right in the entire wide world to be complaining. From Netflixing and chilling to enjoying the unexpected breath of free time and hordes of family fun, with no worries whatsoever of somehow making it out of here, of going indulgent with our awaiting to be tried recipes and a prolonged allowance of undisturbed, untraumatised night of sleep, there isn’t any reason not lame enough for me to morph into a laughing stock or worse, a pitied soul. And yet here I lament the despair of my taste buds and the unprivileged might of my existence even as really suffering souls out there exist in stark silence- perhaps in a hopefully doomed repatriation to their lands, sans possibly even without the means to eat.
What started off as a rant about all things food to be erupting into this level of self- realization isn’t something I expected even from my own self. This indeed is a reminder of the adage that when it is dear life that is at stake, every matter of seeming unimportance suddenly becomes all we care about. The fickle, fleeting entity that life is, we cannot be doing it any better that living it the best in the best of time and hoping for the best in the worst of circumstances. And for this blessing to be complemented by the other essential blessing of food is what luxury should be all about. Staying hearty and healthy is all that matters at the moment for we sure can go devour later. The world is in this together and the world sure will see this pass. All in good stead and in good spirits. Till then feed yourself with positivity and hope and reserve all your cravings for a grand victory feast for the good times to dawn!