Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The world of foodies

I have met many foodies. Many have been close family and friends. Based on my interactions with them I have several observations. A foodie, as I see it, is one who appreciates good food, understands the many nuances of food and is interested enough to go after information that will enable him to enrich his food experience. A foodie is also often a very adventurous eater who likes to understand and then experiment with many different types of food.
My fondest memories of a foodie whom I appreciated very much were the Jiggs Kalra- Pushpesh Pant duo. In the 1990s Jiggs was a food advisor with the Oberoi group and he and Pushpesh used to write a column for the Saturday Times of the Times of India. They studied foods, its effect on the human body and the many flavours that they could be enticed into revealing. I still remember the aphrodisiac food festival at the Oberoi where he had served me a many course snacks menu explained in great detail the various foods and spices that had aphrodisiac qualities and the ways in which they were adapted to modern cooking. Today Jiggs is a master writer and a restaurateur but to truly appreciate the depth of his knowledge, you need to understand the way his knowledge works.
I believe that the most successful foodies are those who can understand food, eat good food with relish but not let it settle in their middle. There is nothing appealing about a fat man gorging on good food in a television show or even in pictures. Even at a meal together, it is fascinating to see a wiry and well maintained person waxing eloquent on good food and actually relishing the food rather than picking at it to maintain his or her figure.
Another foodie I would like to mention is my good friend and former editor Prabha Chandran. Prabha loved food and was adventurous enough to taste all kinds of food. It was a pleasure to go out with her for a meal because the conversation often veered towards how good a particular dish was and why. The foodie always goes behind the why. And to remain interested in food, she was a compulsive runner who ran a minimum of 8 km per day to work off all the calories and be ready for the next tasting.
A foodie is also one who’s adventurous gastronomically. My nephew Praveen has been known to suffer discomfort for the sake of trying a new dish. For instance, the – meal where he had to finish a pound of meat and a plate of fries, or the hottest chilly in the world was all part of the game to him. When he started talking about rum and how it should be drunk, it was a passionate rendition of the qualities that make the drink enjoyable and the ingredients that can enhance it.
Food is serious business to a foodie and any extra effort is worth his or her while. At the end of the day, it’s the pleasure associated with the gastronomical journey and not just the destination that’s important. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Passport blues

My son's passport was to be renewed and that familiar sinking feeling was taking hold of me. The first step was to get a date at the passport office in Gurgaon. Thanks to a good travel agent in the family that was the least of my concerns.
I was told that you have to get all the documents ready. Since I was in a hurry and was willing to pay that little bit extra I was applying on Tatkal, the quickie passport service. But now came the first whammy. If you want your passport soon, get hold of a gazetted government official who would verify that the applicant was of good moral character. Does this make sense? A 12-year-old 8th grader needs an official who has never seen him to attest that he is of good moral character?
Be that as it may, we finally got that prized date at the passport office. A time that clashed with school timings. However, a helpful official agreed to let us come at 2.30 pm, just after school. The officials were helpful and courteous but as we waited first for an hour to receive the token, then the move through counters A, B and C with halls where there was grossly inadequate seating and weak air conditioning , I wondered how the officials kept their sanity. with the small snacks counter providing muffins and coffee as sustenance, harried applicants wound their way through the entire rigmarole waiting for their final letter informing that the process was over and all they need do now was wait for that passport to be delivered to their house in five working days. Small routines, but ones that make the life of an Indian citizen an endless challenge. Can this process ever get better? considering that the systems are managed by the country's eminent IT company TCS, can this process not be simplified? Can the halls in the passport office not be made bigger? Can the AC not work more efficiently? Can the citizen not have to wait for four hours for the process to conclude?