Like it or not: Best in the market according to me are Sri Krishna mysore pak, Haldiram’s petha, Monginis wafers… relish them occasionally but not daily. I buy them only when entertaining at home!

By Tara Narayan

WHATEVER happens if anyone does good food business from home or whatever kitchen space they can set up — one may end up minting a fortune! Or at the very least staying alive be it alone or with family to support. It’s hard to go wrong with food if you can cook with confidence. Everybody needs, wants and oftentimes greedy for food not just to stay alive but also as in to drown all my stresses of life in eating myself to death (like me in black or blue moods). Sometimes I think the more we have the more vile we are, the less we have the nicer we are. Oh, just a generalization! Life is full of generalizations only.
Funny, last week I was thinking of the foody business and how even the home delivery boys of Swiggy and Zomato, who’re graduates, double graduates, PhDs, are making more money than many of us sitting around before computers in fancy or dingy offices as clerks or whatever, take government servants in their offices. If you’re in government service at least you’ve got an assured life even if you’ll likely end up with as much humdrum boredom as your mind can die coping with. But that’s up to you, you can find a way to do any job with distinction if you wish!

BUT this is about food and I’m thinking that it’s only when a birthday comes around that I wonder what to order from some five-star or three-star or two-star kitchen to complement birthday lunch or dinner. Although mostly nowadays I feel I’m just engaging in endless PFTDs or paise feko tamasha dekho behavior. Last week I found myself screening and reviewing online food sites and menus of the five-star hotels I’m familiar with and which are during these covid times reduced to doing takeaways or home delivery meals – all done with five-star frills, menu for breakfast, menu for lunch, menu for dinner, etcetera. Order on phone, chat about this and that and book food, give address and time of delivery.
I’m still being charmed by hey presto, food delivered at my doorstep! But that’s because I do this say just a couple of times a year. But I know folk who do it every other day or week in and week out quite simple because sometimes it is more economical not to cook at home! There are situations and situations in life. Of course one may forget set menus and order a la carte too as per choice and if you know some of the chefs, all the better.
There’re a whole host of independent home kitchens catering to different sections of society and especially seniors alone at home. Sometimes busy office-going adult children don’t want their seniors and health-compromised parents at home to cook and prefer to book tiffin service for them, they also keep a set of stainless steel tiffin dibba for their home cook caterer and I approve entirely of this.
The need for “home cooked food” is desirable if you’re busy earning a living and have no time to do the honors in your own home kitchen morning, noon and night. In fact, a friend of mine in the USA says now their apartment housing don’t even feature proper kitchens as in India because nobody is doing any heavy duty cooking, the younger generations prefers to order in most times, expensive or not so expensive food which may or may not be just junk industrial foods high in sugar, salt and all kinds of gook which contributes majorly towards today’s myriad levels of ill-health. I have nieces and nephews abroad who can live on coffee and sandwiches, pizza, potato fries…and if the parents kit kit too much about junk food they take to the Subway burgers and salads!
Frankly, I’m always wary and distrustful even about home cooking being promoted over various foodie sites. Once, despite clearly asking one famous home cook not to lace my dahivada order with red chili powder, not even Kashmiri red chili powder, I got my order delivered looking as pretty as a picture with bright red chili powder crisscrossing all the dahivada. Now we can’t remove things like chili powder from a dish, can we, and the person who wanted to eat dahivada refused to eat them – unless I agreed to rinse out all the half broken dahivada in water. I enjoyed all the dahivada myself! But see what I mean?

Sweet treats: Try bol sans rival or touchinho do ceu (almond cake, right pic)

I MAY trust only my own cooking at home but that’s natural! Just don’t believe in keeping big packs of cooking oil to do serious fryums though, I just do small-time phodni in rice bran or olive or coconut oils. (Sigh) Still while ordering food from out recently I was comparing prices and getting more and more appalled – hey, folk are earning less and less but buying is becoming more and more expensive! Even with all kinds of discounted promotions one never knows what one may end up getting in the end and whether portions are reasonable or stingy for the pricing…one learns through trial and error and it helps to be on friendly speaking terms with the kitchens or cooks/chefs you’re dealing with. They are also human.
And if you’re fussy about plastic packaging and these ghastly popular pocket trays meals, then just insist on offering your own stainless steel dibba old-fashioned style! Of course there’ll be more washing up to do but less vile plastic waste in the bin to make you feel guilty. You must know plastic waste is so monumental that it is our civilization’s number one monster problem above all others? Knock, knock, who cares even in capital town Panaji?
Anyway, to get on with this, and to augment my latest birthday party menu, I ended up buying this, that and other which makes for interesting notes. I stocked up on a packet of Monginis potato wafers (the best in town), Zantye’s caju packet, at Kini’s Supermarket at Caranzalem I looked for the lovely blue box of Haldiram’s Agra petha to serve as thin sliced sweet of the evening…but I didn’t buy it when I first saw it, and when I dropped by again, it was over.
I have this thing about having both an Indian and Western sweet by way of dessert. The Amul herbal Chakra ice-creams were wonderful but they’re perennially out of stock. Sugar everywhere and I’m no longer a big-time sugar fan so I make it difficult for anyone to gorge on sweets! I couldn’t get petha so I invested in the Srikrishna’s premium Mysore Pak “melting moments” made from ghee (RsI15 per 200 g box). I swear only by Srikrishna mysore pak and their other goodies these days.
The birthday cake had to be the old favorite Portuguese-styled bol sans rival (cake without rivals) and at the very last B-day moment, I discovered Ayesha and Aires Andrade of the Fontainhas Nostalgia branch restaurant who sportingly delivered a bol sans rival home to me. All courtesy my dear friend Margarida of Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia down south Goa fame…nobody runs interference as graciously as Margarida! But this is also to say thank-you to Ayesha who does incomparable bol sans rival.

Pastéis de Nata of Portuguese tea-time sweets fame! A drink to enjoy is horchata or orchata (almond sherbet sometimes adulterated with groundnuts)!

DON’T know about you but amongst the Portuguese-vintage styled heritage sweets I always feel like I must get bol sans rival or one of my friend Marlene Furtado’s high class Tasty Treats – Marlene makes a fine art of doing such things as the much loved pasteis de nata to elegant perfection, to her list now she has also added toucinho do ceu or almond cake. Go to her also for empadinhas of pork or chicken (which are just nice pies, at one time I used to love the chicken pies from Parsi outlets in Mumbai-that-was-Bombay in the 70s, but these days only the corrupted fatso puff pastries reign in cake shops of greater and lesser denomination, puffs are definitely not like the traditional baked savory custard pies of once upon a time, and I constantly wish somebody would do vegetarian versions of the pies but Goa is so much a meaty state).
Hey, at Fontainhas Nostalgia you may also find the almond sherbet called horchata or orxata which amongst phoren sherbats I’m totally fida over…say it’s a plant milk beverage dating as far back as 13th century Valencia where it is known as “orxata de xufa.” If you’re not into drinking beers, whiskeys, vodkas, gins…check out horchata on the rocks. Non-alcoholic but I can get high on it! How about a good bit of horchata in hot coffee, it’s deliciously provocative.
AND so another birthday has come and gone in my life and most of us don’t know if in these menacing covid times we may enjoy another one in the near or distant future. Live for today, my dears and do whatever you wish to do today for tomorrow may never come.

Goa Marriott’s party-on-wheels…

LIKE I said everything coming home is big-time now and this one I appreciate. The Goa Marriott Resort & Spa has introduced what it calls “Party on Wheels” and I’m intrigued. These are celebration packages which deliver designer cake, snacks, food, beverages as per your menu, also party décor and more….you don’t do anything but give them the brief and welcome them with a smile! I presume they come and deliver the party, meaning set it up for you too all safely, hygienically, covid protocols in place. What more can you ask? If you’re interested find out more about “Party on Wheels” if you want to do a quickie party for two or kids or adults or seniors or just a kitty party at home. The idea itself is not new but it seems to have arrived given our menacing coronavirus times.

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