PANAJI footpath market: The early morning Panaji footpath market can do with better maintenance and cleaning up but here from 6am onwards till 8 or so one may find Goa’s local veggies often described as “gauti” – ivory pale cucumbers, tender brinjals green and purple, ladies finger, cluster beans, hogplums, freshly de-fuzzed coconuts, all the gourds ranging ribbed gourd to snake gourd, ivy and wax gourds, ash gourd…also find various local greens, thin-skinned Goa lemons and much more that is pleasing to look at and buy if the price is agreeable!

By Tara Narayan

THE cost of living has certainly gone up alarmingly and I am worried! After a long while I caught up with the early morning pavement market outside the main Panaji Municipal market to look at such gauti vegetables as local ladies fingers (presumably organically cultivated, more crunchy, some friends I know are soaking a bhindi in water overnight and drinking the water in the morning).
The search for protection against the Covid-19 viral menace continues and there’s a lot of advice being exchanged over the social media, plus all the long, long government advice over phone and other media with AYUSH alternative tips and clues to stay home to stay safe. Like it’s ever going to happen. Most people in India cannot afford to stay at home and in the first place few have comfortable homes fit for recreation in peace. People have to work to eat, my dears.

At Manoj Kumar Gupta’s ‘Chai Pani’ for early morning services of tea (`10 per small cup), snacks of mirsang bhoji, upma, poha (`30), some of the largest idli I’ve seen (`40 per plate)…yes, it’s business from 7am onwards, a real find for early morning folk going to their jobs.

Unfortunately, the cost of living continues to spiral out of reason, at one time prices would go up by a rupee or so but now it’s a straight 10 and more. Even a coconut comes at35-40, onions and potatoes are pretty much at 40 plus an extra5 or 10 depending where you’re buying. Usually I try to avoid the Belgaum or Belgavi stuff preferring to pay more to the footpath vendors of Taleigao, a few don’t raise their prices too much but they will insist you buy at least50 worth piles of bhindi or tomato, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, hogplums, papaya (100 for a medium, banana for50 to 60. Eggs are up from40 to 60. A fish thali is up to180, my veg pulao is 140 (pre-Covid price was about100)….a veg thali meal at Café Tato is now 120 but I love this the best on the odd occasion. Mercifully I don’t buyany soft drink bottles but the odd ginger ale is50 per cab, large Tropicana Cranberry tetrapack is 110 now…savory crunchies which used to be in the range of40 are now 70 per usual medium packet. My favorite Savi’s curd 500g has gone from40 to 50 to the present60. Biscuits I don’t buy with the exception of the Monaco salties and the fairly new pizza flavored ones…in a most upmarket bakery I recently paid 160 for six pieces of bolinha, very nice though and Mr Baker’s is one of the few which stocks on guava or perada cheese, there are two types…I prefer these to sickly toffees. What else? Kamat Hotel has closed down and the Fidalgo enclave of restaurants too – shut down. A bird tells me it’s in the red and up for sale if you’re interested, talk to owner Jayant Shetty. No more Bhojan meals now with friends to celebrate something. I look for places where I may get a perfect buttermilk…my own home naturally, so why do I look for it out of home! Morning idli at Navtara have gotten smaller and on one occasion positively solid hard stuff…hard to find decent poha and idli which according to me should not cost more than20-25 per plateful.
WHICH remind me there’s only place you may find the usual range of hot snacks such as fat fried mirchi bhoji, upma, poha, idli, etc, at 7 am onwards in Panaji – have you discovered Manoj Gupta’s Chai Pani (near Bombay Bazar, 18 June Road, Panaji)? A decent standalone eatery for working class folk of long standing vintage, I discovered it some weeks ago. Here 7am onwards I find the largest idli at 40 plate, I pick them up – no sambar and chutney, thank you – at home roughly slice the idli and slow sizzle them in dollop butter, when gently crisped more or less slide on to a plate and sprinkle over with molhapodi chutney powder and garnish with fresh green, green microgreens of celery (terribly expensive at100 per little airy transparent plastic box, available at Magson’s.) These days it’s my treat and the hubby doesn’t know I put them in his omlet and that’s why his omlet is so good!). One is never supposed to cook delicate microgreens though, but use them as attractive garnish of the very best kind….still, in lightly prepared fillers I guess it’s okay. Microgreens in sandwich fillings are yummylicious.
But this is about cost of living and the need to curb my extravagant buys. I spend more money on buying food and stuff for the home and rarely on clothes or footwear for myself. Still, must tighten the shoestrings these days and near future…hey, in case you’re interested gold is selling at 53,000 per 10g, maybe I’ll sell a chunky gold ring I no longer like – but where? Well, cost of living these days, I know a few people selling off or giving away depending on their mood…I’m joining the bandwagon too. Not that I have much to sell off except my prized stainless steel bartan and tons of books by way of novels and stacks of old magazines and newspapers! Okay, no more of this maudlin talk. I keep telling myself to go back to cooking at home like I used to do mostly once upon a time. I mean if I make the best upma, poha, thepla, paratha, dal-bhat, kichadi-kadi, phulka-sabi sabzi and simply divine onion relish/lacha (sliver onion finely, crush with fingers till you get a lacework look and stir in Goan lemon juice, rock salt, serve as side dish)…why should I go buying inferior stuff at two and three times the cost outside home? Think about it. (Sigh) The truth is I’m tired of a lifetime of cooking and want to go live life queen size a la Rhea Chakraborty, my mind is becoming like a jalebi these coronavirus infested times! HOW do you deal with this Goa melon called chibud? I’ve seen around come tail end of monsoon rains but never purchased it before, then one of the Taleigao vendors who’s friendly with me talked me into buying this lovely glossy green going gold chibud, “still a bit hard but it will be ready to eat in a day or two, only100.” Okay, I bought. Generally when I buy things out of turn and I don’t know what to do with them I just let them rot till it’s time to chuck, or give away to someone who knows exactly what to do with whatever.

But this time I did the honors with grand chibud which I remembered on the third day and put it in fridge, to be cut open the fourth day and lo and behold – I was looking at this pale peachy half beauties, absolutely smitten by its looks. Hey, the olive yellow streaky thin skin just peeled away with a little effort, spooned away the mass of seeds to chuck, and sort of fine cubed the velvety, waxy flesh into a pretty glass bowl…squeezed in the juice of two fragrant Goan lemons (got seven for Rs50 outside Panaji pavement market), drizzled over some maple syrup which the Amrika sis had got me, a pinch of pink salt – tossed gently and ladled out portions in a prettier glass and it made such a seductive, inviting picture.
Tasted very yummilicious too, good enough to serve to anyone from President Trump of USA or Prime Minister Jasinda Ardern of New Zealand! Or you and me! I learned chibud is a variety of Indian melon, native to Goa and Konkan coast presumably. It’s also called mash melon and has absolutely no flavor of its own but pretty blandly agreeably all on its own. But superlatively served with one’s own ideas of sweetening up – in Goan homes I’m told it is chunked, tossed in palm jaggery syrup, lemon juice and pinches of grated black pepper, stored in fridge…and saiba bogus! All the gods and goddess of kingdom come would bless you for serving such chibud delight.
Check it out, the Goan chibud, my friends, this rasayana fruit for the soul! I hear one may introduce mashed chibud to babies once they’ve crossed six months of life on the good earth….mashed chibud and elaichi banana. Of course you may add chibud melon flesh to your juices, shakes, lassi, buttermilk, combine with coconut milk and be overjoyed with the result. In the Konkan chibud is fasting food too. Quickly discover it if you haven’t already yet.

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