Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bangalore, eating out in Sixties

When I was a little girl, in Bangalore, in the Sixties, my father often took us out to eat, mostly at Koshy's where I rejoiced in the high chairs onto which I was hoisted, the Malayalee waiters who addressed me as Geeda, the Chicken Mayonnaise which I ordered and remains unmatched in my memory for it’s yellow mustard tang. My sister rejoiced in her Russian Salad - when she was not being a total vegetarian and I somehow remember that we had to drive past a Christian graveyard. But what is for sure is that it was Koshy's that left us a family joke of waiters who clear away tables before you finish eating.

I do not remember where in Bangalore my mother was eating Rogan Josh when my father’s friend joked that she (who was very pregnant with me at that time) was surely going to have twins who would be named: Rogan and Josh. I do not know what Rogan means but I certainly can boast of having more than my share of Josh (liveliness) and, if I rightly recall, the famous Woodlands came into our lives towards the end of our stay in Bangalore - at least the celebrated paper dosa

It is interesting to see that Indian food came into my life later with the normal family meals being fried eggs, thick finger chips, canned fish, cheese toasts and the like - although I think that was basically it. I wonder if it is small wonder I always ran away from food at that age. 

I had not, you see, unlike my parents and sister, just returned from England and, thus, the charms of delicacies such as mashed potatoes or caramel custard still elude me. And Western food would have to be the Malayalee Chicken Mayonnaise or nothing. 

For all the honest efforts of my well meaning parents to convert me to what they must have considered “civilized” foods, I mainly cherish the memory of kesari bhath and another dish of rice that was savoury instead, from my childhood in Bangalore. Let me sweeten my sour words from above by recalling the amazing sweets of Bluebells, a sweet shop which was next to an antique shop at which my dad bought many beautiful Hindu curios – a bear which I have inherited (I hope I did not confiscate it) which represents Jambuvan
to me. 

Jambuvan was important to me as my dad used to allay my childish fears by telling me that Jambuvan was standing in the bushes outside in the garden to protect me. 

At the same shop he must have bought a little stone Hanuman which lay in the glove compartment of our Humber Hawk until the car was sold when we left for Pondicherry. 

There was also a kind of brass mini temple which housed a few of the gods who graced our make shift puja rooms. This one often caused cuts on the hands of whoever was saddled with the task of cleaning it. 

I seem to have digressed from pet pooja (tummy worship) to matters of which I shall write more elsewhere, namely what Hinduism means to me. But ramblings often lead to the right roads and so I shall end today’s pilgrimage to the past with an elegy to my mother’s prasadam for Satyanarayana Puja:
Suji(Semolina) - any decent amount such as a small cupful
Ghee (clarified butter) - since any amount is indecent, use sparingly as in, maybe a Tbsp? Or two
Sugar – to taste (ranging from half a cup or more to a couple of tsps) 
Raisins – ¼ cup
Chopped nuts (Cashew or almond) ¼ cup
Bananas – 1
Roast the suji in ghee until the aroma makes you faint. When you return from the hospital or to your senses, cool it a bit after you have also cooled down yourself. Add sugar and raisins and chopped nuts and bananas. If religious and conversant with rituals, perform the puja.

If not instantly perform the stomach worship ritual by eating it up. The recipes on-line seem to add milk which is not what mom did –so there!

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