Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pune@Food, December 15th to January 3rd

Yesterday we went to Sector 31, Gurgaon, to buy chicken and stopped at a vegetable seller’s to pick up some cucumbers. The hawker tried to seduce us with some big succulent brinjals/aubergines/eggplants (Bharta ke liye) but I told him we’d just returned from a place where we just about had enough of the dish. He grinned “Guest House?” 

Well, although the food at the Pune guest house was nice and simple and what we call “homely”, it took some yogic equanimity to put up with endless repetitions of bharta, pohe, dal, chillas, and such. 

I withstood the monotony better than others for I was reared in an Ashram where taste was not the main criteria for food served (I could thus uncomplainingly survive University Hostel food in the eighties-JNU). Also, I was glad of this long break without having to cook and wash up endlessly.

The only alternation was when I accompanied my husband to the University where he was conducting his workshop-again simple Hindu vegetarian fare. Nice. But it was here that I discovered Ragda Pattice
And then there was the trip to Sinhagad where every step uphill and downhill resounded to the cries of Kanda Bhajji

But I had already encountered this crunchy snack over lunch with a fair young translator whom I had only known virtually till then. She took me to 96K - Select Maratha Food and treated me to a nice chill beer (she abstained!) with the ever present masala pappad appetizer and kanda bhajji over talk of Maratha culture. This young atheist discussed books and cuisines while the benevolent Pune sun danced around us. And then it was a light but sustaining lunch of  bhakri with a kind of hot and sour sprouts curry, accompanied by two very hot chutneys-one was made with crushed green chillies and garlic and I don’t know about the other-Thechas?

And then a foodie friend of us joined us on the 1st of January, 2012, and after that it was all kinds of food mayhem from a lunch of Schezwan Dosa, Kada Handi Pav Bhaji and something Indo-Mexican to a dinner (after Sherlock Holmes at E-Square) at a Madurai shack (really light on the pocket and food not bad at all) with a really pleasant young man running the show, followed by Malai kulfis and paan.

Desserts were astrologically doomed for me as the following two anecdotes will reveal. When we returned from Sinhagad, I mentioned Christmas Cake as it was the 25th of December and one of our companions bought a small Xmas cake. After dinner at the guest house, he asked the kitchen staff (a gleeful trio of Nepalis) to bring a knife and plates. The cake was cut and passed around –thin slivers as most of us were full to the brim with the hearty but simple Guest house fare after the long haul up and down hill.  I had muttered something about sharing with the staff and thus, all confused, we left the cake there, not to mention the barfis and chikkis bought at the Macdo on the way there (the time we lost our way in search of the famous hill). The day after that the cake buyer remarked that he could do with a piece and called for it.  The boys said it had been thrown away :D! 

And then after the Shiv Sagar lunch we had bought a small box of sweets as I craved dessert. We headed for the guest house, the men talking Science gobbeldy gook as they handed over the sweets to the kitchen staff. Soon tea was brought to us –in glasses the way they assumed my husband likes it. After a few minutes tiny saucers followed. Our hearts perked up in anticipation but no sweets followed to be served on those :D!

I think it was a cultural misunderstanding-the boys assumed we had given them gifts. I took my revenge by raiding the fridge each time they were out of the kitchen and taking tiny nibbles-the sweets were marzipan like in taste.  
And to cap it all I lent my colour crayons to a six year old friend and they never returned! And when I narrated this series of unfortunate incidents to a person, I had to listen to lectures about lack of charitable nature to boot harumph !

Anyway upon our return to Gurgaon the balance was restored from the Air India dinner rasagoola to a box from Om Sweets and our own small box from Kaka Halwai-an assortment of two types of sweets both very reminiscent of something Middle Eastern-one looked like a mottled salami-some fruit based sweet pulp with a nutty sheath and a fig and cashew paste cuddled by thick khoya arms. And the bakarwadi packet still humbly awaits its fate. 

I conclude this gastronomic vision of Pune by tipping my hat to Air India: I have quite enjoyed my flights to and from Pune, especially the breakfasts. While the mutton dinner on a previous flight was obnoxious, this time the vegetarian dinner was an absolute dear: kadhi and a mixed veg sabzi as main course. The staff is quite friendly if a tiny bit mature and it’s a pleasant journey even given the stuffy nose announcements. 

1 comment:

Reena Lambha said...

Hii.. Thanks for you posting this blog.
I bookmarked this blog. I will try it this in summer.
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