The other day, or was it yesterday, I was trying again an experiment with food at home. No, that is not the story here. I got thinking about food and what came to mind were some of the most memorable meals I have had. Those memory, I realise, are not entirely about the great food alone. Sometimes, the food was ok-ok; it was more about the moment, the company sometimes. Here they are, some of my most memorable eating experiences, in no particular order at all. These don't include meals at home or at homes of friends and family.
* CAFE COFFEE DAY: The coffee is perpetually bad. But the only reason I include this is because I have spent a lot of the last three years in these cafes, most particularly at two of their outlets in Vijaynagar, Bangalore. And those were some of my best evenings. The coffee, the company and the conversations. A lot does truly happen over coffee.
Recently, during my defence course, fed on greasy paranthas and northie-type dishes everyday, BK and I saw an outlet somewhere in Pathankot. We didn't go but the joy of seeing 'namura-hotlu' (!) had some smiling for a while.
Though I don't go in often, some familiar CCDs never cease to rake up several memories.
* MAAKUTTA, somewhere along the KODAGU-KERALA BORDER: In the last year of college, we B.Com students went on this trip to Kochi. As all college trips go, it was fun, with all its trappings. On the way back, it so happened that there was a day long strike in Kodagu and our bus was not allowed to enter the district. Some 45 of us spent the day in a little non-place called Maakutta where there was one police outpost (without any police), a tiny run-down hotel, a school building and a stream. We washed by the stream, some slept the whole day, some of us laid down on the grass in front of the school and starred up at the sky, some fished with shawls. We also shocked the hotel owner saying we wanted food to feed 45 hungry youngsters. But the poor man did rise to occasion and we were fed. Everyone had fresh fish, I and the only other veggie classmate had some vague curry. But I do remember that it was one of my best meals, further consolidating my opinion that little places make the best food.
* PAANCH PULA, DALHOUSIE, HIMACHAL PRADESH: A bunch of us DCC 2009 classmates set off on our own course early in the morning. I will not write again how I get when presented with the package of mountains, crystal pure mountain air, a bit of cold and the rest. We walked about without any particular direction in mind, stopping by for cups of sweet, milky tea. On a map painted on a wall somewhere, we saw Paanch Pula; the only reason we chose it above the others being that it was the closest. Down amazing paths, framed by deep ravines and green valleys, we reached this place.
A huff and some catching our breath later, we also walked up to the cutest water fall. Hunger struck soon and the one option was the Cafe Snow Bell, really just a little room with shaky tables with plastic flowers and once-white plastic chairs. But the mooli-paranthas (radish) there were the bestest I have ever had. The radish was fresh from the neighbouring village and the pickle too, the yummiest. Between mouthfuls of the large paranthas, we heard an old man talk of how he jogs everyday and about not getting enough people to talk to. Between that, we exchanged stories too, of our treks, planned trips and accumulated experiences.
The cafe was all about the food and the mountain air.
* CHICHA BANDI, POONCH SECTOR, RAJOURI SECTOR, JAMMU AND KASHMIR: The food was the Army staple, dal and some curry and rotis. But sitting so close to the Line of Control around a camp fire, singing soulful songs and listening to the soldiers will remain a melancholic memory. This one was all about that moment.
* AUROVILLE, PONDICHERRY: I think the name of that place is Indus Valley, between the Indian and Tibetan Pavilions at Auroville. Red rice, some vegetables, curry and some drink, with Kalsang from Tibet, her daughter, some other hippie-types was fun. This one was all about the concept of the place. Here, the food is essentially free and you are asked to pay only what you think you can afford. The idea is that you pay for the next person to eat. A 1960s remnant of an idea I suppose, but I loved the concept.
* CHICAGO, USA: For the sole reason that I practically starved there with the bad food, suspicious looking vegetables and horrible mash potatoes. I swore off bread for a while after that. And no, I did not have the time to hunt around for good places to eat decent edible food.
* OTHERS: There are of course the many others. In Bangalore itself, there are dozens of lovely places we chanced upon, several others during my many travels....
The list will be added to.