Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

WHEN the Lokotsav festival is in town, one feels like making a daily trip to its khau galli to feast on savoury and mava kachori, the chaat delights of pani puri and sev puri, aloo tikki, and my favourite dahi vada.

Prices are now up at `60/ `70 for most everything. There is fatso jalebi deep-fried in Amul ghee which I’m not so fond of these days, but the hubby insists I bring some back home.

The Lokotsav khau galli grows bigger with every year. This year, there was a chap all the way from Anand in Gujarat doing khandvi-kadi during the day and kichdi-kadi in the evening. He should be serving a jalebi order along with papdi/fafda (long gram flour crisps), but he turned these into separate orders to collect double price! Hot jalebi-fafda with a few fried green chilli thrown in are an Ahmdavadi or Gujarati dhaba breakfast favourite.

He also had heavy duty thepla made of wheat, gram and millet. “They take my thepla to London and New York!” he said. Good for him. It was his dabeli roti – a pao stuffed with spicy masala akin to the bhaji of pao-bhaji and few token pomegranate seeds – which most folk were lapping up!

But I can’t say I was too enamoured by the Lokotsav khau galli this year and in the end failed to even explore the one stall serving items from Jharkhand. I wonder what their speciality is.

It’s best when the foodie stuff comes in fresh, close to lunch time. On one occasion I stuffed myself with a dahi vada (`70). It was as good as a lunch. Later in the evening, most of the fried stuff acquires a stinky halo of recycled oil, so it’s better to avoid it.

The retailers from Rajasthan and Gujarat were given kitchen tents to prepare their fare, and much of the frying was done on the spot. I much preferred the local self-help group Goan women who put out fresh snacks like batata wadas, mushroom samosas, soft lacy white rice batter pancakes and a range of crunchies savoury and sweet. The early mango pickle has arrived! Someone was also selling hot herbal tea which was so refreshing I kept going back.

I LOOKED hard for the crispy plain roasted white rice flakes (not parched rice fov/poha and not puffed rice kurmura/muri) to make my own mix of chivda but couldn’t find it. These crisp wrinkled roasted rice flakes are to live for and I remember buying them for the first time at Caculo Mall’s Chovoth baazar last year. I wish I’d taken that girl’s number!

They were the best roasted rice flakes I’ve ever come across and were super for fixing my own wholesome chivda mix at home – rice flakes, besan sev / Bhavnagri ghatia / boondi and roasted peanuts. A katori-full in the evening satisfies hunger pangs and it’s a light snack even if the sev and ghatia are fried.

Add in julienned onion or cucumber, green coriander, a diced celery stalk, lemon juice, a pinch of mint chaat masala, and voila, I have a most agreeable snack. I’m looking for some more of the plain roasted or toasted rice flakes so if you know where I can get it let me know.

I bought a bottle of amla relish, dry garlic chutney, Punjabi chana papad and that’s about all, despite the temptations. The self help group women also put out kokum, peanuts and local coconut oil. There were a few stalls with goodies from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka as well.

I must say I’m so in love with Lokotsav that I dropped in more or less daily at some point of time. Of course it helps to stay in Panjim. It was packed last Sunday and life has become dull these days. Lokotsav does good business and I could see folk buying bedsheets from Meerat, meenakari jewellery from Rajasthan, madhurkathi grass chattai in bulk, probably to sell at doubled and trebled rates in their own shops! Some of the artisans complained they lost out on business because their stalls were located in distant corners and lazy shoppers didn’t walk enough to discover them.

For some reason, instead of promoting solar cooking or slow cooking in workshops, the organisers promoted microwave cooking or nuclear cooking as I call it. That means deader than dead meat! Microwaved food is a ‘no no’ in most health-conscious circles. I think we can do without some of our kitchen technologies in our excessively digitised world. We are killing Mother Earth only until such time as she kills us!

I wish there was enough of a boycott lobby in India to send microwaves packing along with plastic kitchen ware. But these are things you must research and decide about on your own. I know a woman so in love with her microwave that she keeps re-heating things in it all the time, including mugs of tea.

Ask any good naturopath or vaid of Ayurveda promoting alternative lifestyle living and he/she will tell you it’s high time we stopped eating and drinking hot things that damage our throat tissues! Is there another animal that drinks and eats and appreciates the kind of piping hot food or drink that we do? Only we, the superficially over-civilised dumb animals of the human species, do it! Well, think about all this and don’t just think.

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