I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top five food cliches that I get my goat

5) "The top-note's crysanthemum, the base note's amber"
There are those who start drinking in college. They consume mostly Old Monk Rum. At parties, they finish the Vodka. They prefer beer, but it's not VFM. Then, they start earning money and find their drink. Whisky for the real men and women. Vodka for the others. Beer for those who don't care about labels like real men and women.

Then, there are those who have nary a clue about alcohol. They start drinking wine. And start analysing the bouquets and the legs. You will find them in expensive restaurants and at their homes finding traces of rose-petals, bell-peppers, cut-grass and tobacco in their wines. Humbug. Gets my goat.

4) "Ketchup"
The Aga that we know exemplifies this affliction, but he's not the only one. Ketchup is the new chilli. Over the last year, I have seen everything from tempura to steak being smothered by kethup. Why, even pizzas are smothered by ketchup irrespective of the fact that Indian restaurants are already putting a lot of it on the base. However, the worst was when sushi... Ketchup comes at no. 4.

3) "And vegetarian for you, sir, right?"
Under the larger umbrella of 'Do Indians eat meat?'. I was in a Hong Kong restaurant, in the IFC mall, waiting to eat the eight course meal. There was seafood, there were fresh oysters, there was a steak made from Argentinian beef, there was the humble chicken as well - on the pre-set menu. Then, the waiter comes to me and says, "And vegetarian for you, sir, right?". Wrong. Even the thought is revolting.
"Okay, then, normal food, right?"
"Of course."

Just because the hordes of software engineers (largely South Indian, largely from cultured families) and Gujjus (largely tourists, largely eaters of dhoklas) and the intersection of those two sets, can't seem to eat any real food, doesn't mean that Indians don't eat meat. 70% of us do.

However, I can't blame the world. The aforementioned highly visible groups will invariably crunch up their noses and exclaim, "I can't eat anything here. It's a sea-food place", whenever they are in a decent restaurant. Or they will go one step ahead and ask for some curd and some rice to go along with their meal and then devour it with wild abandon. And give rise to such terrible myths.

2) "It's better to waste food in a dustbin rather than in your stomach"
While as a principle, I have a problem with the logic, since I believe that at the margin, food in one's tummy is not a waste while food in the dustbin surely is, this is not about the principle. This is instead about the implication of the principle. Time after time, those who can afford to waste food will over-order, or will serve themselves huge servings at the buffet, only to finish their meals with laden plates and smirks.

After all, "It's better to waste food in a dustbin rather than in your stomach".

1) Dhaba food's great. (If you don't like it, you're a 'pseud'.)
What do I say about this one? A shallow menu, deep garnish of coriander on every dish, huge slabs of tasteless butter put over everything... And that's talking about the positives.
...Unwashed vegetables, bones instead of meat, and that's only the keema I am talking about, two basic tastes - bland or burning hot, rotis with uncooked centres and burnt edges.

Plus, these days, even the prices aren't low. Shacks in the middle of the city, pretending to be dhabas, were always way too pricey for the unconventional fare in unclean plates that they were known for. Now, even the highway dhabas have caught up, charging prices according to the vehicle of the diner. But obviously I can't complain. Reverse snobbery and peer pressure is strong enough.

Incidentally, I went on a two-day trip to Mussourie and realised that there's no such thing as a weekend getaway to Mussourie. The damn journey takes eight hours by road, and you can add time if you decide to sample the local 'cuisine' and take pit-stops on the way.
Yet, among the highlights were the room with our own private terrace at a 60% discount, the 'Black Gold' that I found in the momo shop and the Thukpa I had in a Tibetan restaurant, opposite the SBI on Mall Road. The sweet and sour pork sucked though, as did most of the eggs that I had on the trip. I also took some photos, but they are in someone else's camera so please wait. The travelogue will follow with it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

5. That's unfair. People do grow up and while it might be pretentious to talk of hints of clove and things like that, you can grow to know your wines.

4. All I have to say is "Gah"! But then they confuse us by calling it a Tomato Coulis with a Spice Infusion. Double Gah!

3. Reminded me of this post. This one time, at Peter Lugers, I was with a vegetarian dining companion who asked for a salad or some such jazz. The maitre d' gave him a pointed look and said that while one may worship it back home, we eat cows in this country...

2. But think of the Somalians and the Ethiopians! =)

And spare a thought for this family of wastrels...

1. Dhaba food can be great. Provided a dhaba isn't found, exclusively, on highways and refers more to the kind of food and the ambiance.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 5:30:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

BB, thanks for the links. Especially the Chinese restaurant one. And, of course people can know their wines. But, most people don't, you know. Plus, please show me one dhaba worth its hype.. Yet to find one, we are.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 10:22:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's this one dhaba in Panipat. Must try. And don't forget their gajjar halwa.

And another one near Moga called and it has the best dal-roti ever.

And of course, Rajinder da Dhaba in Dilli.

[Will be back when I can remember the names...]

Thursday, December 28, 2006 8:32:00 PM

Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Dude I didn't get the title. "..that I get my goat" or just "get my goat"? I think this is because I am vegetarian and proud to be one...heck, at 30% can I now claim minority status ?

On a separate note - Its good to have you back.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 9:44:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one reason dhaba food has got all the hype is because of the circumstances in which one usually has dhaba food. Even the most ordianary food always tastes better if you're on holiday and someone else is cooking it, and dhaba food with all its associations of cross-country drives and being starved for ages before you come across an oasis-like dhaba in the middle of nowhere could have contributed to this myth about the food being great.

Also, imagine being a student at DU and eating crappy dabba food every day. Suddenly a hot meal at Frontier dhaba on Kingsway Camp feels better than the best mutton curry your mom ever made. And then these associations stick all your life.

Friday, December 29, 2006 12:19:00 AM

Blogger Ambar said...

Just because the hordes of software engineers (largely South Indian, largely from cultured families)

As a proud, cultured, South Indian, software engineer who is also a proud non-vegetarian, I must protest. Years of eating with other software engineers has convinced me that it is the North Indian variety which is predominantly vegetarian. Kindly correct your post.


Friday, December 29, 2006 12:24:00 AM

Blogger Jabberwock said...

Dhaba food has one thing in its favour: it can be more exotic than anything you'll find in an Indian restaurant (especially when they scrape truck-hit dogs off the highway and pass them off as goat meat).

Friday, December 29, 2006 2:13:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

BB, Rajinder da dhaba is probably an example that I should have quoted. It probably was great in the past, say fifteen years ago, but now, is only living off hype. The chicken invariably always consists of raw or overcooked shards sticking to bones, and the rotis are too thick to be called biscuits. I will try the other two if possible.

BA, it's a typo. Sorry. And thanks.

MM, I guess taste is relative. Yet, just as I don't call Stephen's food an example of great Indian cuisine, just because it's better than the IIT-M mess food (only illustrating a point!)...

Ambar, I hope you are safe. The Dodo got extinct as it didn't realise how rare it was.

J, I thought I had missed out on eating dog-meat (except probably as D-School mutton cutlets). Now, I guess not.

Friday, December 29, 2006 2:42:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Gujju attitude at sea food places reminded me of the John Mathew Mathan film 'SHIKHAR'. Imagine taking the 'Brahmakumaris to Singapore and there they are... 'yeh koi khaana hai? ise hum kaise kha sakte hain?'

But honestly, vegetarian fare isn't 'that' ordinary, if you call real food something else! :-)

Friday, December 29, 2006 8:16:00 AM

Blogger km said...

Excellent. #s 5, 4 and 1, especially.

Part of the dhaba food mystique probably comes from nostalgia. I *remember* eating some great dhaba food. I don't really know if it was good or not, because I was only 9 y.o. at the time.

Friday, December 29, 2006 8:37:00 AM

Anonymous ramesh said...

gee dear all knwoing brahmin, snort worthy ants guilty of such digressions.... luckily u r there to point out who's obviously the proletariat and who the chic

Friday, December 29, 2006 11:26:00 AM

Anonymous ramesh said...

i hope to be a drinker of wine :P

Friday, December 29, 2006 11:29:00 AM

Anonymous Soumya Banerji said...

Number 3 really hit home! I swear if someone says that one more time I'll flip. Honestly, the curd and sambhar folks have made it impossible for us in the US.

Friday, December 29, 2006 4:32:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Blr Bytes. No.5 is unfair. There are some ppl who can't drink anything else but wine. but then i have met the types who discuss tannins and base notes etc and they really get my goat!

the best *dhaba* i've been to is the one in Ballygunge in Calcutta. the food is EXCELLENT...and so is the tea...and it's open till the wee hrs of the morning to boot!

Saturday, December 30, 2006 4:56:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Cliche
South Indians are vegetarians.

Except Brahmins, all south indian ppl eat non vegetarian.

Sunday, December 31, 2006 8:24:00 PM

Anonymous Rejin said...

Being a non vegetarian or a vegetarian has got nothing to do with region(north or south), religion (Hindu or Muslim) or caste (Brahmin, non-brahmin).
It is purely a matter of personal choice.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 2:27:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! I identify with each and every one of them, specially (3), when our corporate travel agent booked an Indian veg meal for me after I had specified Non-veg International in my choice, and the airline wouldn't serve me "regular" food!

@Rejin: Which land do you live in???

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 2:37:00 AM

Anonymous Ravi said...

Agree with you on #1,2 and 4.

#3. I am a vegetarian and am not amused by your dismissive and generalizing attitude towards people of my ilk. For the record, I am very experimental towards food, within the 'restriction' of being a vegetarian, but I would rather have a waiter being sensitive towards my 'restriction' than to have him/her patronize me, urging and mocking me to have "normal" food. Also, if your tale is right and you actually saw someone go to a seafood place and order curd-rice, you need to blame that person's stupidity, and not the fact that he/she is veggie. And sensitivity runs both ways. A non-veg person can eat veg food, but not vice-versa. So its a bit rich when a meat-eater accuses a veggie of influencing their choice and imposing restrictions on where they can eat. Yes, its irritating when the veggie guy crinkles his nose when you order tandoori chicken, but that doesn't stop you from digging into his paneer tikka, does it?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 8:30:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Ravi, What kind of non-vegetarians do you know? Digging into paneer tikkas! What blasphemy? Btw, it's rich on your part to think that non-vegetarians can eat veg food, as well. I personally get clinically depressed any time I am served food, without any meat.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 12:06:00 PM

Blogger jas_tech said...

Hi Dhoom, Bangalore Vijay Times had quoted this blog article in their newspaper. I had to agree 100% with you. Especially dhaba food is the most hyped type of worst food. I even heard that the base gravy they prepare can be kep for months and they just add vegetables or meat as needed to make an dish in the menu!


Thursday, January 04, 2007 1:22:00 AM

Blogger Rishi said...

5. Re: wine, I do think you should qualify this. Good wine [or, for that matter, fine scotch] demands attention. There are subtleties of taste and sensation which really do add to your enjoyment. That said, noticing these things is fun; labelling them is frivolous. Particularly if the named flavours are meaningless, being outside the experience of even many cosmopolitan Indians. I wait for the sommelier who will describe a Bordeaux red as having "the rich fruity-salt flavour of fruit chaat, with a subtle whiff of jamun, and the aftertaste of idli-sambhar".

3. "South Indians" and vegetarian? Whatever happened to Malyalis? Or Andhraites. Or Tam non-Brahms. Anyway, as a pitiless carnivore and a TamBrahm who knows others with similar appetites, I do get annoyed with the depiction of Indians as vegetarians as well.

>Dhaba food's great.

Couldn't agree more.

Friday, January 05, 2007 2:57:00 AM

Blogger Rishi said...

>Couldn't agree more.

I mean, I detest dhaba food as well.

Friday, January 05, 2007 2:59:00 AM

Blogger corporate whore said...

I cant believe the fact that most of the ruckus in the comments section is because of the f**king dhaba. Didnt know it was so close to anyone's heart (or stomach as in this case).

Everyone OK with ketchup?

Also whats interesting is everyone's deep rooted prejudices have come to the fore in a flash whether its Brahmin bashing, Gujju bashing, Tam bashing, Indian bashing etc etc.

Sunday, January 07, 2007 8:19:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This one from the DNRC newsletter - its usually good but this one sent
me rolling on the floor with laughter!

That's Why They Call It a DIEt

I'm a vegetarian, which, as you know, means that I can't lift heavy
objects without snapping my spine. I'm secure enough to admit that I'm
pale, frail, and I love e-mail. (Hey, I think I just designed a
t-shirt!) But there's a plus side to my eating habits: I'll live to the
age of 200 unless I get trapped under something heavy, like a quilt. And
unlike my mammal-eating friends, I don't have to decide what sort of
hideous death I want every time I look at a menu.

For carnivores, there are two popular diet plans. The first one involves
eating anything that can't outrun you, whether said object is capable of
traversing your entire intestines or not. It's the most popular diet
plan in America and it's catching on around the world. This group of
eaters prefers as their method of demise the traditional, no-nonsense
heart attack.

Then you have the low-carb dieters. This involves the active avoidance
of life-giving antioxidants while scarfing massive amounts of known
carcinogens until someone punches you to death for bragging about how
much weight you lost.

Some fast-trackers shed their mortal coil using such flashy methods as
Mad Cow, e.Coli and whatnot, but I consider that grandstanding.

Evidently, what we need is a DNRC Diet Plan designed especially for
Induhviduals. We need a volunteer to write a bestselling diet book that
benefits everyone except the people who use the diet. For example, I
think the diet plan should encourage the eating of whatever we think
there's too much of: lawyers, pigeons, cigarette butts, and that sort of

Your first reaction might be that no one will eat horrible things just
because a diet book says you should. But I have a one-word response to
your short-sighted thinking: sauce.

That's right, sauce. Most people think that cows are delicious, but they
don't stop to think how much work went into changing the taste from its
original cow flavor. Realistically, you wouldn't order any kind of food
that was labeled "cow flavored." Fortunately, great cooks can disguise
the flavor of anything. If you try to tell me that Emeril Lagasse can't
make delicious chowder out of cigarette butts, then I say you haven't
seen his show. The man is a miracle worker.

Then there is the issue of health and nutrition. Ha ha! Just kidding.
But seriously, the sauce will make everything taste great.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007 1:20:00 AM


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