Takeaways and home deliveries have become more popular than ever, courtesy Covid-19 lockdowns… even after the lockdown few are willing to open up happily! For example, Kamat’s hotel in Panaji still prefers to do only takeaways orders; the huge tiffin service is courtesy Cafe Sheetal; Swiggy and Zomato are doing better business then ever… popular Cafe Bhonsale is fully open now.

By Tara Narayan

LOCKDOWNS are over but it’s not yet like normal times before Covid19 happened to us! Normal is no longer as we understood it anymore. It is as if normal times have come to a standstill although every now and again some folk try to break through to re-capture the good old days of freedom to do as one pleased. During the lockdown phases I found myself cooking more at home happily and unhappily…and then I discovered everyone was sailing more or less in the same boat of survival.
On the food front if the eateries and restaurants were not open at least their kitchens were as they caught on to the fact that some income could be earned only through pickups and home deliveries courtesy the home delivery services with Swiggy and Zomato trying to outdo each other with their promises of we are better than you vis-à-vis Covid19 protocal! So I realized that on days when cooking at home become tiresome I could go pick up puri-bhaji or vegetable pulao or whatever from a half-closed (meaning no entry for peaceful sitting down and ordering once food with the service boys) Café Bhonsale or Kamat Hotel or wherever; soon, even the bigger hotels like the Miramar Fortune realized the only way to stay afloat was to keep their chefs in the kitchen busy catering to takeaway or home delivery orders far or near. Many like me preferred to pick up something or another while out shopping for daily essentials in the morning or evening.
One could pick up food from a whole range of live kitchens which had opened up from small time eateries or even the five-stars. Feeling liberated the first thing I did after a long, long break is go to Café Real to so sit all by myself in splendor at a table to remember what a samosa tastes like! My first samosa in something like three months. Then Sunday evening I dropped by at the Carasid outlet at Miramar-Tonca to pick up one of their excellent sandwiches (coleslaw crunchy is my favorite) and to my surprise saw a special Sunday menu featuring one of my favorite meals from down south India, namely veg stew with appam (Rs160)…of course there were other things like egg roast, chicken pepper curry, all to go with a pair of generous appam (described as “rice and coconut pancake/bread”).
The appam and curries were laid out neatly and separately and one could do one’s own combo pick-ups. Appam in case you don’t know are Kerala-style pancakes and in my opinion superior to any other kind of pancake from the countries of the West. Anyway, anytime, give me steam-cooked appam with their soft laceworked looks, thick spongy centres…milky white or ivory white depending on rice used to make the appam batter….hot, hot they marry well with the fragrant with curry leaves and coconut milk vegetable stew, pretty as a picture, this mélange of vegetable stew which may or may not be spiked with slit green chili. I prefer the original heat in south Indian food coming from black pepper instead of phoren chili peppers!
I BOUGHT some appam and veg stew wishing the stew portions were more generous. But then what to do, prices of food takes-aways and home deliveries are also up most everywhere – regardless of whether you picking up food at a five-star kitchen or a more downtown eatery kitchen…say a plate of idli (Rs50) or meduvada (Rs70) or even the humble upma or urpit from Kamat Hotel. One may also pick up the soft onion bhajia from Café Tato some evenings, the best in town. And yes, I do take my own bartan whenever I can, for I get irritated with myself when buying back food from here and there which comes in these little itsy bitsy plastic containers which I have to later wash out and put into my dry garbage bin.
Dry garbage if you’ve notices is always huger than kitchen wet garbage…dry garbage is made up of bottles, cans, these horrible if colorful MTR 3-minute poha cups with cute foldable spoons in them if you please, Maggie atta noodles wrappers – and I do feel the company has repacked old noodles into glossy new packaging for resale value, once opened the noodles smell a bit like vintage noodles despite the taste being masked by the taste-giver masala sachet packed alongside…oh, yes, I suspect because of the Covid19 lockdowns whatever is back in the market is old repacked value snacks!
So be careful, especially if shopping for the wide range of fancy wafers of purple potato or red beetroot or whatever exotic vegetable. These foreign-labeled seemingly health-conscious wafers are extra highly priced so regardless of the re-worked dateline one may end up upon opening that the wafers inside are considerably softened affairs as in no crunch left.
Frankly, for the zillionth time I don’t know why I get tempted to buying packaged food! Because I’ve neither inclination nor time to waste making some things in my kitchen, especially fryum snacks. I used to like the potato mint bhujia sev but then discovered ingredients listing palmolein oil and stopped buying it promptly no matter how agreeably delicious the bhujia! I prefer good old-fashioned groundnut oil in my fryums, not hydrogenated vegetable oils. But almost all the plethera of plastic packaged junk food is listed as made in vile palmolein oil.
AND I don’t know whether you’ve noticed or not but takeaway food now comes packed in plastic lined aluminum foil if you please. Deadly. Like I always say, if you buying anything from out feel free to virtuously carry your own stainless steel dibba to get whatever food you’re buying to be packed in it; don’t be sheepish, I assure you that now even restaurants appreciate this and it does makes a big difference vis-à-vis how much we patronize food in plastic packaging.
I’m fond of picking up an occasional prawn curry from Ruchi’s and take my own bartan. Make the rice at home, buy the curry! That’s what I like to do once a week. Pick up good poie from a local Goan podero at Caranzalen or Taleigao in the morning, or make rice or chapatti or paratha at home – buy back some curry, subzi or maa-ki-dal from some place where I find the kitchen is run by more conscientious women and the fare tastes more or less more wholesome.
Some hi fi kitchens won’t entertain requests for just chola masala or jeera alu or masoor-ki-dal since they want to sell you their entire designer thali meal deal, in which two or three item numbers out of seven or more may be edible… but I at least usually chuck burnt out puri, kacha roti or paratha…. avoid sabzi if oily or too spiced up, and have absolutely no use for the useless side offerings of fried green salty chili or dollop of salty Punjabi pickle or atrociously fried papad! Not even the limpid gulab jamun. So one is paying really for two small portions of nice sabzi, dal, jeera rice or pulao…all adding up to Rs350 to Rs450 per grand meal deal visually presented in designer plastic platter sealed and tucked in maybe paper bag!
Funny or not funny. Sometimes the food item itself like a vegetable pulao or palak paneer may be packed in a thick plastic container but it is delivered in a neat brown paper bag, as if to say, don’t mind, ok, don’t mind, this is just to con your eyes and conscience and the perennially lazy FDA authorities. I don’t know why so many takeaway kitchens also insist on tucking in these ghastly range of plastic crockery in their home-delivery meals. I mean surely if one is eating at home or even office one may have one’s own stainless steel spoons and forks? Anyway, this is to say be choosy cherry and eco-friendly when buying food from out now that the Covid19 lockdowns are more or less over!
Needless to say prices are up all around so one may as well cook more at home than buy home. I mean a good samosa in one of my favorite Goan eateries is now more or less Rs25, a vegetable pulao Rs100, and so on. I used to buy eggs before the lockdowns at Rs45 dozen but now it’s Rs60 dozen. Prices rarely come down…last shopping out I paid Rs40 for a bunch of green coriander leaves, Rs20 for two carrot, Rs110 for largish papaya and of course the local farm women will offer only three drumsticks for Rs20 although I ask for at least four drumsticks, and it’s Rs50 per tender bottle gourd.
(Sigh)Seeing how everyone is sporting face masks while out shopping I went to my local chemist to buy more masks and found that the initially Rs15 gauzy throw-away masks have been replaced with more serviceable Rs40 to Rs50 washable masks but the cloth is not pure cotton now but has some polyester mixed weave in it! Why is it that when prices go up the quality tends to go down?
In any case I find constant use of the masks with their stretch slings… gives me an itchy rash behind the ears! But I do believe that masks provide some protection while shopping at crowded venues, so wear them please. Social distancing must be absolutely voluntary and we should mask ourselves at least till the wretched coronavirus chooses to depart from our midst! One never knows where it is lurking around to put you down the path of terror, or no return.

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