Of Masala Dosa, Maggi and Manchurian


You’re sitting in the mess. It’s a dull Sunday afternoon. Standing in line, fearing the worst. You get your food. Somehow, despite your shockingly low expectations, it still manages to disappoint you. Stomach grumbling, you just close your nose and stuff it in. You just imagine what you would have been gobbling at home on a weekend. You could practically taste it, it’s just beyond your fingertips. It all comes crashing back when the stupid mess cat brushes against your leg. You look back at the colourless slop on your plate with a sigh.

Be it a hot bowl of tomato soup when down with a cold or munching down cheesy pizzas on a Friday night, I could probably sit here all week thinking of a word to properly describe the feeling you get while having good food and I’d be no closer.

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Taste is not what you think. Every schoolchild learns that it is one of the five senses, a partner of smell and sight and touch, a consequence of food flitting over taste buds that send important signals—sweet or bitter, nutrient or poison?—to the brain. Were it so simple.

Deliciousness is both ingrained and learned, both personal and universal. It is a product of all five senses (hearing included) interacting in unexpected ways, those sensory signals subject to gross revision by that clump of nerve tissue we call the brain.

A short flashback now. When I was a kid, both my parents used to work so they had to leave really early every morning. Why do I mention this now? Well one of my oldest memories was getting up on Sundays, not because of an alarm clock or anything, but the smell of mom’s hot homemade breakfast. Be it masala dosa or puri with curry, Sunday morning was a happy time for everyone. And the sight, everyone sitting together, everything laid out in the middle of preparation. I don’t know, the mental image just sort of stuck in my mind. This is probably what started my love affair with food.


Fast forward a few years. Now in high school I was already a foodie. There was this little shop behind our school, Spicy Corner, that practically became a home away from home. The food there was spectacular, indo-chinese food mainly, manchurians and noodles. More importantly it was nicely priced to fit in with our shallow student pockets. My friends and I used to hang out there after school on most days. Again, maybe it was some Chemical X in his schezuan sauce or something else but this is another mental picture that is framed in my mind, just hanging out there with my friends. Laughing, shouting, teasing and even crying off results happened here. It became like a bubble where nothing could bother us. Since then, whenever I have indo-chinese, it always takes me back instantly making my day better. Of course with rising prices and shrinking business (juniors tsk tsk 😦 ), it’s a much more sombre place now, but whenever I’m in town, I make a beeline straight there. Call it recapturing childhood or clinging to the past if you want, I still maintain there’s something magic in his manchurian 😀

Finally no article about food is complete without a mention on Maggi. Just back after a short hiatus, Maggi has brought smiles to millions world over. In hostel, Maggi is a student’s best friend. 2 in the morning and starving, no problem…. Maggi!! Rubbish mess food and a nearly empty pocket…. Maggi!! Plus I’m sure the first thing anyone ever cooks in their life is Maggi. I remember standing on a chair bending over the stove while I was like 8 or 9, feeling like a gourmet chef, preparing my own food 🙂

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One thing cool about food is that it is often an outlet for creativity. Cooking can be a real art form and it turns out shredding vegetables is a pretty decent (and productive 🙂 ) way to deal with being pissed off. Mixing and matching tastes and finding out what complements what is a journey in itself. Like Jake from Two and a Half Men puts it “Well, I like to eat and I like surprising my mouth”

To finish off, a quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “This was their first encounter with the fact that a full stomach meant good spirits, and an empty one, bickering and gloom.” Wisdom dispensed by JKR indeed.

All this writing really works up an apetite. Need to grab a bite. Until next time 🙂


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