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the most memorable meals of my life

22 Feb

eating winnieeating moleMOST MEMORABLE MEALS I HAVE HAD

I am a foodie.  My girth gives credence to the fact. But when I try to remember specific feasts, it is not the quality of the meals, and definitely not the quantity, but the associated memories, the ambience, the locale, the company and the circumstances in which they were enjoyed that make them memorable. Often it was poor fare by any gourmet standards or any standards at all, but the enjoyment derived beats Michelin rated chefs hollow. Not that I usually dine in that style, but had the good fortune of sampling a few. Enough of this preamble; Listed are some meals I vividly remember, despite being in an elevated spiritual plane when partaking in them.

In no particular order—–

Dal bati and chach.—1983 Rantambore

Venue- a remote hamlet near Ranthambore in Rajasthan.

Ambience-Squattig on the mud floor, being served by giggling veiled women

Company- three more backpackers, from Shillong, Mumbai and Australia respectively.

Hosts-A bevy of Rajasthani belles, wives and daughters of illegal wood gatherers and herdsmen, giggling behind their veils, and conversing through sign language and an incomprehensible dialect.

Menu- Lumps of dough made of Bajra roasted directly on wood fire, crumbled with homemade ghee, and some sort of lentil. This is dal bati, a rural Rajasthani staple, one helping of which is enough to bloat a city dweller. This is washed down with buttermilk or chach in huge brass tumblers. Even the chillum enhanced appetite wasn’t sufficient to consume more.

Charges- Free.

This was during a backpacking trip in Rajasthan, when we were denied legal entry in the Tiger Reserve and given shelter by complete strangers in a nearby hamlet. The ladies fed us, found our demeanor and appetites hilarious, when we showed helplessness in having more than one helping .Purdah was maintained by them staying just indoors and roaring with laughter from behind ghunghats, or veils. We were referred to as” Bawre”-the crazy ones. We slept in their courtyard, and later entered the forest illegally with their men folk, carrying a packed lunch of chana and gur, or, as the Aussi called it, Nuts and sugar. Suggestions of reimbursement of costs was considered extreme bad manners as we were guests.

Goat intestine, red rice and Ghanti –1986 Kalpa

Venue-a high altitude village in the Kinnaur region in Himachal Pradesh

Ambience-Dancing in the moonlight in a grassy knoll, snow peaks all around, beautiful Kinnauri belles  forming long swaying human chains

Company- my 12 fellow trekkers (including my wife) and most of the Kinnauri villagers gathered for the Poornima  Mela or full moon fair

Hosts-the entire village represented by their Headman

Menu-Ghanti ,which is a sort of apple cider, goat intestine cooked I don’t know how.

This was the 12th day of the Kinnaur Kailash trek, courtesy Indian Mountaineering Federation, in the inner line area of Kinnaur. As in those days the area was inaccessible and prohibited to tourists, locals had not met outsiders and at every camp we were greeted by the nearest village and joined in on their impromptu singing and dancing to folk songs around campfires drinking prodigious amounts of Ghanti, which is the local brew made from apples and apricots. But the grand finale was the new moon fair, where we were special invitees and honored guests. A goat was sacrificed, and after many hours of inebriated dancing and singing incomprehensible songs, we had the starter made of goat’s intestines and some kind of red rice or grain washed down with even more ghanti, till I passed out. I was later carried back to camp in procession by the villagers singing improper Bengali songs I had taught them.

Unidentified meat, rice and Millet Chang —2001 Yumthang

Venue- The village drinking hole in a small hamlet in North Sikkim

Ambience- Low smoky stone room with a blazing fire on which cauldrons are bubbling, squatting on Yak skins on low stools with a bench in front, old lady in exotic garb smiling and serving, crowd of Lepcha villagers quizzing us in unknown tongue, and we are responding with the two Lepcha words we know

Menu- Chang, served as a pile of fermented millet heaped in a large cut bamboo, into which boiling water is poured from a battered ancient brass samovar, and the resultant concoction is sipped through thin bamboo pipes. Accompanied by bits of meat of which you can’t guess the origin.

Company—my wife, daughter, our driver cum guide and local Lepcha villagers

In North Sikkim during a home stay in this high altitude village, this was the most exotic pub I have seen, which includes Indiana Jones films

Fish Crab and Unknown Bird, Roasted on open Fire and river chilled Mahua – Jona , Jharkhand, 2002

Venue-open air among rocks and roaring water, at the Jona falls near Ranchi

Ambience- – Bathing in the falls, deserted thanks to fear of Maoists. The lone tribal man fishing and trapping in the river turned out not to b a terrorist but a gracious villager who offered to share his meal.

Menu- freshly caught fish and crab, gutted, stuck on sticks and roasted on an open fire. Ditto small bird trapped or shot with sling. Served on leaves. Washed down with Mahua, the delicious elixir made from the red flowering tree, which intoxicates elephants bears deer monkey and birds, from old beer bottles, cooled in the rushing stream.

Company- My colleague from Ranchi who knew of this place, and the suspected red menace

Having a day to kill after a business trip to Ranchi got over early; we visited the now deserted Jona falls and had this memorable experience which made me miss the flight back. Our tribal host was happy with whatever we offered him. He didn’t ask, nor demur, nor bargain, merely gravely accepted whatever was offered.

Nun Cha, and Mathi in Kashmir—2013

Venue- a Kashmiri wooden house in a village, somewhere on route Gulmarg

Ambience- Squatting on a carpet in the  central room of the traditional house, surrounded by a bevy of stunning women, please note no burkha or veil, all relatives of our driver , being quizzed as the first outsiders or Indians as they called us, to ever visit their home.

Menu- Salt tea or Nun cha, a Kashmiri staple not available in shops, which involves night long soaking and hours of boiling, and is more like soup, and Mathi, or home baked  salted pastries.

It happened by chance, when stopping for Kava after a Wazwan at well known eateries on route Gulmarg. Our driver, whom my wife suspected of being a terrorist, confided on quizzing that this isn’t what they have at home. When I wanted to sample home fare, he invited us home. Leaving the main road, and finally the car, we walked down narrow lanes to the wooden house, our host answering every villager’s questions on the way. His sister hosted the tea party, and everyone posed for photographs. Other than security forces on search operations, we were the first outsiders in their village in three decades

Scrambled eggs, Sausages, and bread and an array of liquid, herbal and chemical elixirs for spiritual upliftment and expansion of consciousness.—Delhi 1985

 

Venue- my barsati bachelor pad in Delhi

Ambience- impromptu pot luck party which was also my wedding feast

Company- my new bride and a whole bunch of disreputable friends

Menu- being pot luck, everyone brought something to ensure high spirits, whether liquid solid or whatever, but no one remembered food.  A sober neighbor went out and got a lot of eggs, sausages, bread and butter and that was the meal that cheered everyone but my wife.

Being a sudden decision and being broke, my post elopement party went like this. We left a room and terrace full of comatose people and went to face my unsuspecting parents and furious in-laws

Here are some links to stories where these meals figure

https://soumyamukherjee8.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/opinion-reversed/

https://soumyamukherjee8.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/close-encounters-of-the-wild-kind-part-1/

https://soumyamukherjee8.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/getting-married-a-sudh-filmy-romance/

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20 Comments

Posted by on February 22, 2014 in food, humor, Humour, memoir, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 responses to “the most memorable meals of my life

  1. spunkybong

    February 23, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Hah! ‘unknown bird’, ‘unidentified meat’. You have out done your self here, Soumya. 😀

    Like

     
    • wiseguy from the east

      February 24, 2014 at 2:07 am

      Thank you :). Shall I stick to travel writing?
      Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

      Like

       
  2. Ajit Verma

    February 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Unknown Bird: Was it Bageri?Maja aa gaya.
    Your blog really whetted my appetite.

    Like

     
    • wiseguy from the east

      February 24, 2014 at 2:09 am

      Possibly. Wasn’t carrying Salim Ali. & skinned they all look alike
      Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

      Like

       
  3. iwrotethose

    February 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Wow, that’s quite a culinary journey there. Lovely (and not to mention tasty) post!

    Like

     
  4. Deaf Mamma

    July 9, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Loved all your feasts, but fav is the last one, pot luck with disreputable friends and unsuspecting parents. Hahah.

    http://sinhasat302.blogspot.in/

    Like

     
  5. wiseguy from the east

    March 26, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Idyll Dreams of an Idle Fellow and commented:

    on the request of a travel writer I greatly admire, i am sharing this again

    Like

     
  6. maverickbird

    April 26, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Drooling…

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • wiseguy from the east

      April 26, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Come on. You have had far more exotic adventures and meals 😊

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • maverickbird

        April 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm

        But food glorious food, actually drooled at goat intestine and red rice bit.

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • wiseguy from the east

        April 27, 2015 at 1:36 am

        I am back in the area but staying at a resort for a conference. Met with some locals who were excited that I knew about the local delicacies and had come here before tourists did and are trying to organise some for me 😊

        Like

         
      • maverickbird

        April 27, 2015 at 4:31 am

        Wow lucky you. Enjoy. Now that’s on my to try list the next time I am in that area.

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • wiseguy from the east

        April 28, 2015 at 4:04 am

        I am back in the area but

        Just learnt that the dish is called gimpi. We also had grape ghanti which is the most valued ghanti 😊

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • maverickbird

        April 28, 2015 at 6:32 am

        Wow. Did you have gimpi once again?

        Like

         
      • wiseguy from the east

        April 28, 2015 at 8:02 am

        Unfortunately not and sorry it’s gimta. Had too much ghanti before posting last night 😊 On 28 Apr 2015 12:02, “Idyll Dreams of an Idle Fellow” wrote:

        >

        Liked by 1 person

         
      • maverickbird

        April 28, 2015 at 8:51 am

        Ha ha that was funny. You sure enjoyed your ghanti

        Liked by 1 person

         
  7. molleyblog

    March 7, 2016 at 5:24 am

    Woooow. ….what do I say? A feast for the adventurous! Unknown bird, unidentified meat….the imagination boggles.

    Liked by 1 person

     

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