Eating and drinking are two universal sources of pleasure for all living things..humans and animals, for adults and children, rich & poor, the sophisticated and the ordinary folks, men & women and people of all cultures from all over the world since ...forever.
Since, I am not adventurous I don't try out a lot of new foods.
Since I am a bit of a miser, I dont eat out a lot.
Since, I eat mostly to satisfy my hunger, I am not much of a food fanatic.
I am lazy and not 'crazy' about cooking. Ergo, I cook as I have no other choice.
I cook a few dishes well and as I dont get bored eating the same things over and over again, I end up eating the same stuff for years and years ! Some relatives are annoyed about my lack of variety but I am happy eating the same things as they taste so good to me! My sister loves trying new cuisine, new restaurants, she will travel far to try some new food, but not me!
My favorite foods are neither exotic nor expensive. Most or all of my favorite dishes, are the type appreciated by people with simple tastes and some dishes can be classified as rustic even.
One fault I ought to overcome is that I gulp down the food and drinks. I simply cannot slow down. This probably prevents me from savoring the food and drink. I keep telling myself I should practice mindful eating but for some reason (ADHD?), the moment I see the food or drink, all ideas of slowing down go out the window and the food rushes down my chute!
Here is a list of the foods and drinks that have given me great pleasure and happiness when I was eating them and even later when I was thinking or talking about them!
Vobattus or holige: Any Kannadiga will know what this is. It's made using cooked toor dhal (i.e. the dhal is boiled in water in cooker until it's softened), jaggery, coconut, &cardamom ground together into a thick pasty mix (shop bought vobattus dont have cardamom and it drives me insane!) and then covered with maida flour dough (maida is refined wheat flour) and flattened like chapatis and this is fried on a pan with lots of ghee or oil. Holiges were made by my mother and grandmother on festival days such as Ugadi. Though I felt sick of the smell of the groundnut oil, pervading the entire house on the day the vobattu was made and I felt too sick to eat them, I ENJOYED hogging them the next day when the smell of oil was gone! I feel homesick for vobattu in Canada and it makes my mouth water, simply thinking about it. Of course, when I visit India, my mom makes tons of it and I eat them greedily! I am not partial to the sugar and coconut vobattu my husband's family make. I find that sugar and the thin crispness of the sugar-vobattu awful but eat about half a vobattu so as to not hurt feelings.
Vobattina saaru: The water used to cook the toor dhal is used to make the vobbatina saaru, a spicy liquedy soup sort of dish, eaten with rice. I love the taste of this saaru. This saaru tastes great the day it's made but even this perfect deliciousness improves with age! It tastes even greater about three-four days later, perhaps due to some sort of a fermentation process.
Yel-neeru/tender water of coconut: This is another thing I miss about India and my farm. In Toronto, the only place one can get to tender water of coconut is at Chinese stores which sell coconuts whose outer green has been shaved and the white tender covering on the shell (this white covering is the future dry coir) is wrapped in that thin transparent plastic. It costs about 2.50$ (in 2014-2015) each. But the taste is not as good as the tender water from my farms coconuts. Neither is the quantity of water great. There is hardly a cup of water per coconut form the Chinese stores of Toronto. However, the tender water of the trees of my farm was so sweet! Also the coconuts were huge and a single coconut yielded about half liter to maybe even one litre of water! Drinking from one coconut from my farm filled me up, leaving room for nothing else! I found that the water from a tree which grew right next to the water canal was the sweetest of all. Maybe the continuous flow of water on the tree's roots made the water from this tree's nuts sweeter?
It was heavenly to sit in the shade of the coconut trees and wait for my cousin or uncle or whoever to climb the tree and bring down a few nuts and hack them open with the macchu(an iron ax like thing) and hand the coconut to me to drink up. The cool breeze blowing on my face, when I am sipping the tender water, the birds making their noises in the trees, my uncle forcing me to have more though I was full with just one coconut's water are great memories! (Actually not many birds sing in the hot afternoons.)
A less memorable experience is buying the tender coconuts on the streets of Bangalore, haggling to get the price reduced, grumbling that the water is not much and is not sweet enough or 'sappe'.
I thought tender water of coconut was a perfect drink which needed no additions. Yet my mother who plied me with coconut water daily morning as soon as I woke (when I visited India) would add a bit of lemon juice and sugar to it and it tasted great ! I would never have thought of trying this but she made it work.
Here in Canada, the only time I have bought tender coconuts was when I was very sick, had lost my appetite and the only thing acceptable to my tongue was coconut water. I have lived on coconut water until I recovered. It was the same in India too. The belief was that when one is sick, one cannot 'taste' food and one should drink coconut water as it has all the nutrients one needs and coconut water is the only thing a sick person can have without throwing up.
It is definitely worth retiring in a coconut growing country if one can have affordable coconut water , morning noon and night! Maybe I should retire in India, or one of the Carribean islands or some such place.
Another delicious favorite of mine is Panchamruta: Pancha means five and Amrutha means "nectar of immortality" in Sanskrit. Panchamrutha is a combination of ripe banana, cold milk, curds, honey & ghee and poured on the idols of Gods and then collected and distributed to the devotees after the Pooja. . The Panchamrutha is consumed with reverence as it is now Prasada or food blessed by the Gods and eating it is supposed to lead to the blessings. Whatever the story behind the Panchamrutha, I simply love the taste of it and though I tell myself that it's fattening, I cant resist eating/drinking this concoction! My husband eats chappaties with panchamrutha but I simply drink this up. This is very simple and easy to make as there's no cooking involved. All you have to do is mince the bananas and add the rest of the stuff and wait for them to blend. One ripe banana, one cup of cold milk, a few spoons of curds, a table spoon of honey and a table spoon of ghee is enough. (In north India, I think they use sugar instead of banana but I prefer banana).
If you think, mixing ghee with curds seems weird; or mixing curds which is sour with sweet tasting items like honey and banana seems odd. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, these 5 things go so well together!
Rose gulkand: During my childhood, I had a neighbor who grew rose plants at home and he collected the rose petals and made gulkhand. I loved this gulkhand! It had the most amazing smell...it was the gentle sweet smell of roses and it tasted heavenly! It was so amazing this taste, smell, texture, this gulkand should have got some sort of an award! Instead, it was something enjoyed by a few of us and remains untasted and unknown to the rest of the world. The rose petals were strictly from his own plants...this is because, if he bought roses to make the gulkand, he would not know for sure that the roses were never sprayed with pesticide. (I still remember reading an article in a Bangalore newspaper years ago of two working girls, who plucked rose petals from some garden on their way to work and dying after consuming the petals)
This person is in his 80s now. He was a self-taught horticulturist who grew several plants in the limited space of pots on his roof! He had the amazing ability to graft plants sand come up with new plants; he was unashamedly and un-embarassedly doing cooking at a time(1960s, 70s, 80s) when Indian middle class men would not lift a finger to do chores at home. And he made this amazing gulkand! His other amazing and RARE virtue is his scrupulous honesty at his job as a KAS and later as an IAS officer. He worked in the cess-pool of the Karnataka government, and was rigidly honest. To me, he was a diamond surrounded by filthy, rotten, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
One last word,...this gulkhand was far far FAR superior to the shop bought gulkhands! The shop gulkhands were too sweet or felt wrong in some unidentifiable way. I now never eat gulkhand as they will not taste like my neighbor's gulkhand.
Mangoes: the Pakistani mangoes one gets in Iqubal store of Toronto and the Totapuri half raw and half ripe, one gets in Bangalore and other parts of India
Sweet sapotas eaten at the perfect stage of ripeness: The sapotas are perfect for eating only on one single day. One day the sapota may be too raw to eat and two days later it may be too soggy and over-ripish. You have to find the right day for eating, by gently squeezing it daily until the right day. On the right day, it will dip in just the right extent. If it resists, it's too raw and if your fingers go deep in despite your gentle touch, it's over-ripe.So, one has to check daily for the right time to eat it!
The Sapota(Sapota is Mamey sapote) milkshakes, Seethaphala milkshake( Seethaphala is Sugar-apple i.e. the fruit of Annona squamosa), of Ganesha juice centre in Gandhi bazar of Bangalore tasted like heaven on hot evenings when I returned from work. I would rate the seethaphala milkshake a tiny bit above the sapota milkshake only because I disliked the white sticky sap clinging to my lips when I had finished the sapota shake.
Coming to alcohol, my experience is once again extremely limited. My tastes may be labelled as naive by the experts! But hey, I dont care. I drink for my happiness, not to impress you!
I loved the Mojitos I had in Havana. My husband and I wandered the streets until we were hot, tired, hungry and unable to take another step! We would then enter the nearest resturant we saw. We would order Mojitos and whatever food the resturant had. I loved the taste of this drink. And since I was hungry, tired and hot, the drink would go straight to my head and I was plesantly dizzy with just one drink! The drinks invariably arrived first followed much later by the food in almost all the places. I dont remember the food being exceptional but I loved the Mojitos!
I would love to be able to sit in the shade, somewhere outdoors, sipping Mojitos while weaving nice daydreams. Even my own backyard in summers would do.
Another amazing alcoholic cocktail I have enjoyed is the 'Hair of the dog' at a pub called by the same name on Church street of Toronto. It had some alcohol, tomato sauce sort of thing, salt, pepper, a slice of pickle, cucumber, a baby tomato and maybe other things too . I loved this drink! I have never ever had alcohol with 'hot and spicy taste' like Indian food and this was fantastic. I just looked up the meaning of hair of the dog and it means drinking alcohol to get rid of a hangover. Another article states that hair of the dog recipes contain protein (such as eggs) and vitamins in the form of fruit & vegetable juices to help recover from the dehydration, headaches, etc of the hangovers.
To be continued...other favorites of mine:
Ragi mudde with bas-saru
Mosaranna with uppina kai
Mosaranna with chutney pudi
Vidhyarti Bhavan masala dosa
Dwaraka bhavan set dosa
plate idli and chutney
Dhood peda or Dharwad peda or Mishra pedha
dedeer uppina kai made and served in weddings
hot spicy boneless chicken biryani(the bones in any dish are annoying and interfere with my enjoyment!) from Lahore Tikka (a resturant on Gerrard street in little India in Toronto...but these days it's gotten expensive and not spicy/hot enough for me)