I suppose it is a little strange that when people ask me what I miss the most about home the first answer that comes to my mind is food! My dad amongst his many sermons and monologues once said something indeed wise while encouraging a certain Hungarian-German to try Indian food: When you really want to enjoy the food you must use all your senses. See the colours, smell the flavours, taste the emotions and finally, feel the warmth. I do truly believe that some foods taste so much better when eaten with the fingers.
Its not only the taste of the food that I miss (don’t get me wrong, that’s a major part of it). It’s the memories that are attached to it. I believe everything we eat has a story attached. Whether it was celebrating my parents 25th wedding anniversary, college drinking parties, cooking with my cousin for the first time and most recently lazy Sundays in Bangalore – the various types of Biryani were always the feature of the story. It’s my happy food. When Sundays roll around now, I almost always have a moment of remorse for all that uneaten steaming hot, spicy rice and meat that I’m missing out on. A close second, though a cliché doesn’t make it any less amazing – butter chicken. My first days of freedom! When I moved to Delhi, and could order in as often as I wanted, without my mom’s disapproving glares. Back in my hometown with my girls we found a shack that sells the perfect butter chicken – the richest gravy the perfect shade of orange, the balance between sweet and hot. Our stayover go-to food. A habit to be continued in Bangalore only with new friends and making new memories.
Mom food of course comes in a category of its own, but I don’t think I really have the words needed to express how that just makes everything right. The beauty of it is that its simple, and even though she will explain the recipe and guide you on skype, it will never taste exactly like when she makes it. Whether it is buttered toast or dal, mutton curry or aloor dom, there is something almost sacred about it. Friend’s moms’ food also comes in this category – invariably if you have been hanging around someones house for long enough you will be invited to a meal. Or you simply help yourself to their dabba at school (or office). Then you know exactly what each of your friends moms (and grandmoms too) excel at, and if you are lucky like I am, they make it for you when you visit. That’s how I have the best memories of the flavours of sinful sabudana khichdi, thecha and lasoon chutni that WILL make your eyes and nose run, chicken curry and apams so light there is a danger of them floating away.
The repertoire is growing. 4 months here and I’m enjoying authentic lasagna and tiramisu made by my Italian roommate. Tortillas by the Spanish neighbour rivalled only by the creative exotics dished out by our very own head chef. The Mensa (cafeteria) menu has its ups and downs, but things like Hacksteak and Spaghetti Bolognaise I think will remind me of that warm tray in this cold country for a long time to come.
I must admit that I have spent quite a few weak moments masochistically googling and ogling at pictures of aforementioned favourites but I am happy to report that my homesickness reduced drastically with the purchase of jeere, dhone, lonka (chili) and haldi powder from Heng Long Asian Supermarket. Experimenting and getting better with every passing weekend, with guinea pigs around eager to try the famed Indian food – I think I’ll have some new favourites by the end of this phase of my life.