Of food and such…
I guess, Jace, talking about his travails with veggie food in Thailand kind of provoked this walk down food lane.
Chole Bature stalls are all over the place in Meerut. They are, in a sense, the Meerut equivalent of Bangalore’s Darshinis. Unlike the Darshinis they only serve up a limited menu. Chole Chaawal, Chaawal, Butter Parantha, and of course, Chole Bature. They don’t look all that great from outside. Downright dirty, actually. But, like they say, beauty is only skin deep. So, if you look past the unattractiveness, and make your way to one of the tables, you will find, to your pleasant surprise, that they are quite hygienic after all. The tables are wiped clean, the water is spotless, and the plates are clean as well. If you order Chole Bature, you will find, much to your delight, that your decision was a very wise one indeed. For Rs. 14, you can partake of a very filling and satisfying dinner.
It took me 4 months before I decided that I had had enough of the one and only South indian hotel in Meerut (Saagar Ratna) and the 2-3 odd multi cuisine restaurants, to make my way to one of the Chole Bature stalls. I still avoid the water, though. I will, of course, pass on part of the blame to my Mallu colleague, who has been even more loath to experiment than I am.
When I was a kid growing up in Hosur, whenever we ate out, no matter how posh or otherwise a hotel was, I would invariably order Chole Bature. I don’t exactly remember the reasons why. I guess it had something to do with the fact that I loved Puris, and amma made puris very occasionally at home, and chole bature was of course, out of the question. And back then, I was still a sambar-idli-vada person, and if someone had asked me what Stuffed Parantha was, I would probably have said, Must be some non vegetarian stuff.
In college, quizzing helped me make enough pocket money to treat myself, and sometimes my friends, to occasional visits to the fancy multi-cuisine restaurants – the kind I am so sick of now. I would then, almost invariably, ask for Gobi Manchurian or Gobi 65, as it used to be called in some places. I never knew what that 65 stood for, till one day, someone told me that it owed its origin to Chicken 65 (which was another item on the menu). What then was Chicken 65? Apparently, chicken 65 stood for a 65 day old chicken. This chap told me that a chicken’s meat was softest and tasted best when it was 65 days old. Now, I have no idea of verifying if that’s true or not, but it seemed to make some sense at least. And I always wanted to use that as a quiz question, though I never got around to doing that. The question then to ask, of course, “is Gobi 65 then a 65 day old Gobi?”
College quizzes used to have these 2-3 standard and “legendary” fake questions, which were the consequence of some brilliant fellow’s hyperactive imagination, and about as far removed from the truth as you can get. I remember discovering that, (much to my dismay), when I was putting together the General Quiz for Harmony (my college’s cultural fest) in my 3rd year. I think each city has its own set of such legendary fakes. I wish I had used that Chicken 65 thing. Maybe it would be circulating in the hallowed quiz circles of Coimbatore to this day. Who knows!
In the time since, I have lost much of my fetish for Gobi Manchurian, but for the moment at least, I seem to have rediscovered my taste for Chole Bature. If you are ever in Meerut, do check out one of the Chole Bature stalls on Abu lane. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I shall leave this place with a twinge of regret, on at least this account.