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Man versus Food

In blah, life, opinion, the (much) better half on September 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The wife and I have a long-standing argument about food. Particularly the kind served at restaurants around the city. My contention is that there really isn’t much difference in the taste and/or quality of food delivered by our local “free home delivery” joint and what is brought in meticulously arranged piles on weirdly-shaped slabs of china at those that regularly rate mentions in newspaper supplements. Any perception of superior taste is really nothing but a fallout of the fact that the former usually are named after the proprieter’s wife or assorted dieties (Priya/Sadguru) and the latter have cryptic call signs for names (San-Qi/KOH) and better interior designers. (ducks instinctively from the flying book/cushion that invariably follows such a statement)

Now, there is no doubt that she knows food better than I do. My expertise at distinguishing what’s on my plate is limited to being able to tell thai red curry from green (scratch that), being able to tell red curry from green. I can even go as far as to announce that a ‘mutton balti’ had been placed in front of us as long as it was actually served in one of those miniature copper buckets with “mutton” printed in bold on the side. She, on the other hand, can rattle off statements like “i’d prefer this with fussili and not the rigatoni” and “there’s not enough hollandaise in this”. Aside from politely pointing out that the restaurant didn’t make any claims to serving dutch food I usually refrain from commenting.

I say, take away the nebulous concept of ‘ambience’ and they’re all the same. I mean, come on! Are we already not subconsciously assigning a premium to the cryptic call-sign restaurant (refer 1st para) when we walk in to be told that “the kitchen here is run by chef so-and-so”.  And as we walk by the fountain and sit at the pinewood table with the tulip centrepiece, have we not already given the place a hard-to-beat lead? note to wife: tulips, now those are dutch <chuckle>.

The Four Seasons in Mumbai, (i’m told) has made it fashionable to have a lobby that looks crowded with more than 1 person in it and to report “parking charges” as their most profitable service offering. I’ve heard statements like “You know they charge 90 bucks for parking?! Ridiculous! Shall we do lunch there this friday?” But I digress. Its when we come back to the staples of British dining; paneer tikka masala, chicken biryani, butter naan that I think, the playing field is level. In a blind taste test, would the fare from at the call-sign restaurant beat that from the local joint? It’s really hard to say. Packaged in unmarked creaky plastic boxes would the INR 650/- biryani with a string of adjectives be able to differentiate itself from the “raita Rs 10 extra” variety? That’s the question.

Not a simple answer. Think about it. If you go to a joint having seen a reference to the place in Vir Sanghvi’s article in HT marvelling at the lusciousness of the frou-de-pomage-a-la-bleh (not actual dish), then read a couple of more reviews (which might or might not be PR pieces), read a bunch of tweets from a bunch of people with handles like @foodgoddess or @youreanidiotifyoudoubtmyopinion, then does the restaurant have to do more than provide a passable frou-de-pomage-a-la-bleh for you to be doing Meg Ryan impersonations (you know the restaurant scene I’m talking about)?

The argumentative amongst you might insist it’ll actually work the other way and they’d go in with high expectations which the food might not be able to live up to. To those, I refer you to @youreanidiotifyoudoubtmyopinion


How I infiltrated Venus

In blah, life, the (much) better half, Uncategorized on January 2, 2010 at 6:57 am

“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. For some reason, almost all of us have heard of the book, not necessarily about its author, John Gray who, it turns out, owns the Mars and Venus franchise with 6 other titles involving the two celebrity planets. This made redundant any quips about other suggested titles like “Why boredom Mars Venus shopping trips”, “When Mars checks out Mercury’s moons”, “Why Mars and Venus feel lost at the planetarium”,”What to do when Venus catches Mars checking out Mercury’s moons”. Talk about a goldmine.

No, this is not a book review. The title covers all that I know about the book. This, strangely, seems true of everyone alive. No one seems to have read it. In spite of its assertions of “offering many suggestions for improving men-women relationships in couples by understanding the communication style and emotional needs of the opposite gender” as explained by wikipedia. I would like to think that I might have, by my own mental functions, managed to add a few fitting paragraphs in the book, heck, maybe even rate a mention!

The backstory to this, as expected, revolves around the specific venusian in my life, and more specifically, dates, the calendar kind. For some innate reason, this Venusian, like many others of her kind, likes them. Am not just talking about the ones that are backed by official documentation like anniversaries of weddings and births. The purview of ‘significant’ dates includes, anniversaries of first-dates, first kisses, first scrap/poke/nudge/push on miscellaneous social networking sites, first (almost) death-match over the remote, first black-eye and so on. Some of those might or might not have been invented for effect. Match this trait with the shadow of a sliver of a failing in my constitution where keeping track of dates (and their significance) comes about as naturally to me as underwater coral reef night-photography skills to a camel. You guessed it, wholesome entertainment for imaginary observers.

Over the years, this slight misalignment in temperaments has been the cause of a few words, mostly from her, a few roundhouse punches, again her and copious sobbing, all me. Suffice to say that my track record has been spotty, at best. That changed in the December of 2009. To be honest, I celebrated almost prematurely. I thought the battle had been won when, I set a recurring google reminder titled “Start thinking, you have x days!”. It wasn’t for nought though. I had managed to reduce the possibility of gruffly telling her to quit listening to her ringtone so I could sleep as the calls poured in at the stroke of midnight on her birthday.

Whoever said “well begun is half done” obviously had never done anything, or begun much. Going through the mental list of potentials, I unsatisfactorily went through the usual…chocolates, jewellery, gift coupons to hardware stores, gift subscriptions of Sports Illustrated (swimsuit edition), none of them quite hit the spot. I sifted through stored fragments of conversation to check for lines that went something like “There can’t be a better birthday gift than the <indistinct mumble>” or even “If I only had the so-and-so, the cheaper version of course, I’d be eternally happy”. And that’s how it came to me. That plus an online banner.

The result was a departure from the usual reaction of a puzzled look, a muted “Oh”, followed immediately by “It’s perfect!”. So, while the title of the post exaggerates, for a brief moment, I did manage to get a glimpse of the gates of Venus by smuggling myself into the back of the gardener’s van that transports the fertiliser used to landscape the outer perimeter.

Strappy Days

In blah, the (much) better half, vacation on February 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I, finally have an achievement to speak of, for my existence of over the better part of three decades. Having dithered, dilly’ed, procrastinated and for good measure, dally’ed for over three weeks since the seed of the idea germinated, the wife and I finally left the bustling and apparently irresistible force that is Mumbai for a purely voluntary weekend away, in Mahabaleshwar.

Before I’m faced with allegations of falsely trying to paint myself as a workaholic, it was always just laziness. Firstly, the time and more importantly effort that goes into figuring out a weekend destination is pretty much that goes into planning a year-long hiatus, or what must’ve gone into the invasion of Troy. Secondly, when compared to setting the alarm for 8.30am just for the bliss of pressing ‘Off’ and turning over for an additional couple of hours, the idea of being up dark and early (if it was bright, it’d wouldn’t really be early would it?) to *gasp* shower…and be *choke* physically active seemed just plain dumb. That said, not trying desperately, and succeeding, at looking like a vegetable over an entire day does have its rewards. It helped that the missus took on the onerous task of planning the invasion, namely means of transport and potential hotels.

A late night bus ride got us there; you guessed it, dark and early. Our cab driver’s doubts after hearing our hotel’s name – Fredrick, were justified when we came across a locked gate and an unanswered reception phone number. It was only later that day, as we walked about town, it struck us that our original hotel was the only one that didn’t display “Only Pure Veg.”, almost as prominently as the name of the hotel itself. I’d take up the cause for this blatant discrimination against those of us who prefer their food to have had a mother, preferably well-marinated, but this was a vacation wasn’t it.

Out and about after a hearty breakfast and the overarching theme is red. Everywhere you look, a dimpled red with a short green stalk adorns every storefront. Also the storesides storeback and storeroof. Enter the missus. Now, the woman I married is for the most part, a balanced, level-headed person, the odd transgressions being around chocolate, shoes and bags, in that order. Within minutes of entering the market-square though, she had a gleam in her eyes, that I remember having seen only once before, when I’d done the unthinkable and voluntarily tossed a sock into the washing machine instead of its usual resting place, on the coffee table. There is a scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus takes Neo through his first training simulation of the matrix. As Neo fights his way against the flow of the crowd, Morpheus glides through unimpeded. Ditto here! As I politely dealt with gents of dubious face-reading skills who kept coming up insisting that I looked like Ganpati and would have three progeny, she glided. We mutually decided that the emotion could only be described as strappiness, a state of blissful happiness arising from being in the vicinity of millions of strawberries.

Several ‘points’ with breathtaking views, a guide who had surprisingly accurate data on the number of tourists to have met their maker by jumping off them, the shooting of a film song sequence with a gent with a mop on his head and a lady with enough glitter on her outfit (however much of it there was) to blind onlookers. Quite the weekend.
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