Sunday, July 17, 2011

Limitless wonder

Certainly not the way I eat!
I remember that, in school, fellow students made it a point to ask this question to put a timid and meek lad in trouble.  Do you live to eat or eat to live? It was after considerable deliberation that the right answer was arrived at.  Right answer in this case was the one that did not invite the giggles and that condescending look of You can't even come up with the right answer.  Anyway, now, nobody would ask that question, and the answer would be way different.  The passage of time has corrected several of my answers now, which I had presumed to be right back then.

Food has always been a priority.  One does not have to go through any kind of difficulty to get awesome vegetarian food in Bangalore.  By default, all the good restaurants are pure vegetarian only. In fact, till I was in Engineering, I had never entered a restaurant that had non-vegetarian food. Anyway, all this is for another day.  As I got exposed to the concept of lunch buffets here in the US, initially, I thought it was a magical experience (no, not from Steve Jobs).  As students, we would be deprived of good food for indefinite amounts of time, and as soon as we had a chance at the limitless opportunity, we would stuff ourselves to the brim.  It was as though we had been starved for years.  It took us a while to realize that there was no point in eating like maniacs and it took us some time to understand how to eat at a buffet.  To top it, the food wasn't exactly out of the world.  I mean, not even close. The people from the North opined that only South Indian food was good, while the South Indians reasoned the other way.  So, they had a steady trickle of one set of customers who came to the restaurant recommended by the other set.

Plate Meals
Anyway, south Indian meals are fascinating when they come with the unlimited tag.  In a conventional "limited" restaurant, the meals would be served on a plate with several small cups of side items and a slightly larger cup for the rice.  A guy like me would always be preoccupied as to whether I should be ordering some extra rice throughout the meal or end it without the extra helping.  Finally, I would go one way or the other, and curse myself for not doing the other.  I have always felt that this puts undue pressure on the customer.  Allow the poor guy to eat in peace.  In order to help such people, there came the good Samaritans, who thought it fit to introduce the endless supply of food in a South Indian setting.  A local restaurant here serves food exactly the way I like.  They have a limitless supply of rice.  A South Indian, if he sees this unlimited supply of rice, will even write his property in your name.  Anyway, to be fair, this restaurant has good home quality type food, the kind you would find in Iyer mess homes back in India.  So, as I entered this restaurant for my weekly bout of fill, I sat next to a guy, who I assumed must be on his way out.  He was midway though his meal.  That's because, he was having Rasam rice.  Rasam is had after Sambar and before curd.  That's the order being followed for centuries and I am sure if I ask my mother, she will give me the "right" reason.  I wouldn't want to find out the explanation.  I have no doubt that I am a good eater - a man with a voracious appetite.  I spent about twenty minutes having good amount of servings of kootu, curry, sambar, rasam, appalam, curd and payasam.  Curry, Kootu and Appalam are the side dishes, while rice along with sambar, rasam and curd form the main course.  So, it goes like this.  Have curry, kootu and appalam in the side.  Have your fill of rice and sambar.  If required call out for another helping of curry and kootu.  Have your fill of rice and rasam.  Call out for another helping of curry and kootu (optional).  Have your fill of rice and buttermilk along with pickles.  The meal ends here.    I was literally packed.  I didn't feel guilty.  After all, I was sure there was no baking soda to upset your stomach.  It just felt like home food.  Rather, it felt right.  After such a meal, it is too difficult to do anything.

As I got up to go wash my hands (there is absolutely no way that you can wipe your hand with paper napkins after a South Indian meal), I was surprised to find the guy who I had observed at the start of the meal, call out for another round of rice and sambar.  Thankfully, he didn't opt for the plate meals.  It would have been like a starter.
For me, it's unfathomable how people survive on sandwiches or salad for lunch every single day.  At the end of the day, I act as though it is grave injustice when I see a layer of fat developing around my waist.  But, to compromise on food requires a big effort.

(Pics taken for information purpose only. Will be taken out if violating any copyright)

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