When you see movies like Wake Up Sid! - (I haven't seen it, but I'm being called Ayesha a lot here in Delhi with that reference, I guess it's about wide-eyed youngsters thinking they can survive on their own devices. Guess it's a comedy) - they don't show you the real struggle. Every coming-of-age movie will show you the first breakthrough, the first win, the first failure, but who's going to show me how the cleaning lady refuses to come on time, keeps taking money for soaps that never make it to the kitchen, who's going to tell me buying organic vegetables isn't simple or cheap and I have to eat mass-marketed food like a peasant? Nobody. Stupid Bollywood telling me lies.
As my frustration may have led you on, I've had a rough week, my jobs great, boss loves me, dogs love me, everyone loves me. But the cook doesn't. Let me give you context, my host, Neo and her roommate Neha have a maid, who - no offense to anyone - cooks the most preposterous food in the world. You can't eat jailhouse paranthas and watery veggies every day. They do, I can't.
I mean, doesn't the famous saying go, "Live to eat"?
Well, for me it does.
I have been a skinny child, who went on to become an obese teen, followed by years of dieting and now, to a healthy food fanatic. I prefer jaggery to sugar, ghee to olive oil, and veggies to pizza. Actually, it depends on the pizza.
Basically, I don’t like putting garbage in my body, I work really hard to take care of it, and so I like eating quality calories. I’m like most people in this regard.
After my experience with the horrendous food by Sunita aunty (the cooking lady), I realized I couldn’t eat maida paranthas ever again, especially if they’re not even fluffy and flaky, and just taste like cardboard. Sorry, bad food really grinds my gears.
So with my heart broken, and the realization that I won’t get a nice home-cooked meal for a long time unless I cook it, I started to hunt for food that “I” could eat. Talk about caveman times.
My first meal was breakfast from one of the many stalls set up in the office canteen. I took a tea and egg white omelet. I didn’t think that such a simple order could go wrong, but I was presented with an overcooked omelet fused between two slices of bread. And I was told, there is NO sugar-free tea. This is what it looked like.
Not one to throw food, I ate it all, regretting every single bite and calorie I was consuming. It cost only 50 rupees for the whole thing, but I knew I’d never eat THIS again.
Since food was the only thing on my mind, time flew by, and it was time for lunch! Yay? No.
I was craving roti so bad, so I took a vegetarian thaali (I don’t trust the chicken, it’s awfully huge portions for such little money, I don’t trust it to actually be chicken). What I got for 60 rupees was: Dal tadka, paneer matter curry, two rotis, apple custard I didn’t ask for, and boondi raita? I don’t know what that was for. The verdict? It was eatable, but I’d still never eat it again. Does this look appetizing to you?
I was so disappointed that I didn’t want to bother trying the dinner at office, so I left for home in an auto, after much haggling he agreed to take me the 6KM distance at 80 rupees (that is expensive, and here, there are NO meters, WHAT THE DAMN HELL?).
But, it’s not all bad, very close to where I’m staying; there is a 24-hour shopping arcade, where you can get all your groceries, medicines and even chai! So I went to a store, bought some Venky’s chicken seekh kebabs, some milk and jaggery. I deserved a feast, and I was going to make one!
So I sautéed my already cooked and highly preserved kebabs, made my tea, made a parantha from the dough Sunita Aunty had left, and voila! Look at this beauty:
Alright, maybe it doesn’t look great, it’s hard to make food like this look good, but it was appetizing and yummy, and the tea, oh god, the tea, was just like home.
I heard so many things about Delhi food; I think I’m yet to find it. Till then, I’ll just survive on my Venky’s chicken kebabs, boiled eggs and my homemade tea, sweetened with jaggery. Like my shorthand professor would say, “Be good, be strong, be beautiful my little nugget”.