Archive for March, 2008

Who slaughtered the unsung zero of Karnataka?

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: While Kiran Rao Batni was lamenting the birth of naan, malai kofta and chicken tikka masala as local food in Bangalore (Anna-sambaar to the American on the BlackBerry) ten days ago, I was silently mourning the death of an unsung ‘zero’ of Karnataka: the kodu bale.

The food fundamentalists of churumuri would like to believe that Bisi bele baath is the quintessential Kannada contribution to cuisine. In rare moments of modesty, they might even grudgingly nominate mavinakayi chitranna as the de facto delicacy. But permit me to strike a discordant note.

Kodu bale, to my dark, deep fried mind, is Karnataka’s asli gift to humankind—if you leave out Kingfisher beer.

(Together, of course, they constitute the most potent Improvised Explosive Device (IED) invented to soften up targets. Permit me to drop a name. I once gave a box of home-made kodu bales to my then favourite Pakistan batsman Salim Malik the night before an ODI and he quietly did what match-fixers in their moments of madness must have paid him millions to accomplish: perish for zero.)

But we digress.

Something has happened to the kodu bale—as Shamala atthe and Leela dodamma used to make it.

Let’s call it The Great Kodu Bale Konspiracy.

At home, the missus can barely find the time or the inclination, and even when she can, her much-acclaimed culinary skills desert her when she starts rolling the dough for the dark dynamite. The first set turns out all right, golden-brown and perfectly round. It self-destructs in your mouth as if to leave no trace for investigators.

And, also, because you have been panting in anticipation like a hungry dobberman, because you have Vijay Mallya‘s wicked brew for company, it tastes darned divine.

But, like with Sania Mirza, the problem starts with the second set. It’s wayward, erratic, inconsistent. There are lots of double faults. Undettered, the wifey has packed about a dozen or so in a Tupperware® box for the morrow. But the next afternoon, the full scale of the disaster unravels itself: yesterday’s scrunchy runaway winner has become a soggy, rubbery runner-up.

What melted in your mouth last night, now shows no mercy on your ageing molars. It wants you to work at it. It wants you to do a million push-ups with your jaws. It wants you to pull it apart.

Suddenly, your favourite snack has become khara chewing gum. A slave of your palate has become its master.

Out of frustration, I have pursued readymade kodu bales from Kodambakkam to Kuvempunagar. From the countless Iyengar bakeries, from the Mylapore maamis, from the Shetty angadis in Chamarajpet, from the Wal-Mart of fried stuff, the Thindi Mane. But nothing works, at least not for too long.

Either it isn’t spicy enough. Or the colour isn’t inviting enough. Or the texture isn’t right. Or the shape is disgusting. Or there is a faint rancid smell. Or, the ultimate health warning, the wife detects “Dalda”.

Subversive desh drohis try to push rave kodu bale on me. When chakkuli is being made, a couple of faux kodu bales make their way. But they have no effect on me.

Is this the first sign of OCD, I wonder: Obsessive Codu-bale Disorder?

Goodness gracious me!—I thought I would never say this—but is there something unsurpassable about home-made kodu bale? Is it really true, what Nina Wadia says in Meera Syal‘s sitcom: “Why go out when I can make it at home?”

Because of our time-strapped lives or because of all those executive health checkups, or because we have all been watching food shows where all they make is macher jhol and mutton jalfrezi, has the craft of making kodu bale deserted all our homes, all at once?

Maybe, in the smaller towns and villages, kids want them as much as they do pizzas and burgers. Maybe, mothers and grandmothers still make them the way they used to although I am sure that’s an undeniably sexist thing to say. Or maybe, this is just a personal disaster.

Permit me, therefore, a moment of privacy in public to mourn the death of an unsung ‘zero’.

Photograph: courtesy maneadige.blogspot.com

Cross-posted on churumuri

Advertisements

Comments (5)

If you’re what you eat, what does this make you?

At the Guo-li-zhuang restaurant in Beijing, guests can sample from an extensive and impressive menu of penises and testicles of every conceivable variety.

Stefan Gates of The Times, London, watched the chef show him a preparation:

“He enters holding aloft an eye-wateringly large yak’s knob. It’s about 45cm long, but thin, so thin. It’s been boiled gently and – I can’t believe I’m writing this – peeled, except for a hunk of foreskin still clinging on to the end. He cuts the thing in half lengthways with a pair of scissors. As he chops through the very tip of this impressive member, I feel an undeniable empathy twitch in my own penis and a bizarre feeling of nausea in my groin.”

Read the full article: China’s penis restaurant

Comments (4)

Anna-sambaar to the American on the Blackberry?

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes from Bangalore: At a long luncheon meeting with a couple of American visitors today, we did some serious overtime talking about food.

One of the guys started talking about food from Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, China, Japan, and how he’s had a great time experimenting with the local culinary delights. He mentioned how he loves eating the local food wherever he travels, and how it’s one of the best parts of a job involving travel.

“Local food is actually the best and the safest option anywhere in the world,” he said. “You go to Japan, and you eat sushi. Period. Don’t even try anything else.”

Of course, what he said made eminent sense.

We all nodded wisely.

It took me a while to realise that in Bangalore, what we had ordered for lunch for our American visitors was naan, malai kofta (for the veggies) and chicken tikka masala (for the non-veggies), and that there was actually nothing local about any of those dishes. Wheat is not even South India’s staple cereal!

If local food is best and safest, every dish on the table was “local” to places at least 2,000 kilometers away from where we were sitting in Indiranagar.

I’d like to leave Churumuri readers to ponder the following: Why is Karnataka’s local food not to be seen in so-called decent restaurants? How have we so coolly accepted North Indian food as “local” food? Is wheat the real staple food of the bold, beautiful, rich and famous? Are rice, ragi, jowar bad linen to be hidden from foreigners to save embarrassment?

When will foreigners ever understand the diversity of India? Should they blamed if they think all Indians speak Hindi and eat naan, malai kofta and chicken tikka masala?

Is it wrong to talk about India’s culinary diversity? Should we be defensive about our own delicacies? Should we always take visitors to North Indian restaurants? What has happened to Kannadigas’ entrepreneurial skills?

Are we being ambassadors of Atulya Bharat when we forget our own culture, cuisine, and cereal?

Also read: Gutter chicken: The Punjabification of our food

M’am, can I have one more of these lovely balls?

Real estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

Cross-posted on churumuri

Comments (2)

When the heart pines for panneer butter masala

BANGALORE: A group of North Indian prisoners, most of them undertrials lodged in the central jail in Bangalore, have approached the High Court and demanded that they be served North Indian food, reports The Hindu. They claimed that South Indian meals had made them weak.

The six petitioners, two each from Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, claimed the food was prepared in unhygienic conditions. They said they could not order meals from the canteen as it had been closed since July last year, and wanted the jail authorities to either permit them to receive North Indian food or allow them to cook their food.

There are nearly 50 North Indians in the central jail in Bangalore.

Read the full story here: North Indians can’t digest jail food

Comments (1)