I have been tagged!! I am thrilled! But is not the easiest of lists… Five Things To Eat Before You Die meme started by Melissa of The Traveler’s Lunchbox has been sent my way by Carolyn who writes the wonderful stories from the Field to Feast. And I agree with her that it is the stories that make the food. Most of our comfort foods are that because of their associations.
I remember my first Hot Chocolate Fudge sundae at Nirula’s in CP, shared between three friends to split the princely price of Rs7.50 three way – we were in X grade and it was our first outing so far away from home territory (12 km?); and the most delicious hamburger I ever had was at a small place in the mountains near Denver after a long hike (part of which involved some reluctant mountain biking for the last stretch that resulted in badly scraped knees and elbows; I couldn’t bike on a straight road if my life depended on it). We decided I should walk when I flew off the handle (yes, really) and fell, no crashed, for the third time. Kevin felt so sorry for making me ride the bike that he didn’t even let me pay for the burger! No ketchup, btw.
There are a lot of foods that I love. And that is the case with all of you out there; we are passionate about food to the extent that we are willing to make it the focus of our writing (and reading!). But ‘…before you die’ has a yearning tied to it of repeating an experience before we pass over to the other realm (new lives and newer experiences for some of us :-)). That is how I have approached this list of experiences tied to food, that I wish to happen (again) (and again) before I die.
1. Mutsch - Kashmiri Meatballs: An integral part of a Kashmiri wedding banquet, these are also popular at regular meal times. Ground lamb meat gently simmered in a spicy gravy to make the most succulent meatballs. These are so versatile that they can be served with any bread, Indian or otherwise, or as is the tradition, on a bed of warm starchy short grain Kashmiri rice. The promised recipe will be posted as soon as I have figured out my mother’s secret ingredient! No matter how closely I try to follow what she ‘says’ is her recipe, it never comes out like hers. My son vouches that “no one makes it like Nani“. I have gotta master this so that my grandchildren can have the opportunity to say the same (in my case, it’s going to be Dadi though!).
These meatballs are truly delicious and you always want more. It is true, my son (then six years old) had tears in his eyes at the prospect of sharing the last two pieces with his mom whom he was visiting after a one year separation! This when my mother was cooking it for him every other day during their visit with me! That time she used ground turkey since lamb is not readily available in the US and my father would not eat beef. I personally feel that turkey is the better substitute for this dish.
2. Japanese country food at Domo’s, Denver: On a weekday in the winter of 1997, Steve at work suggested we try out this new place for lunch. Most of us there were interested immediately, including Catriona, who would rarely come for leisurely lunches with the rest so that she could be home early for her son and husband. I was acting ‘single’, with my family far away in Delhi. So the group set out to try out Domo and what it was about. Like all things Japanese it had an unpretentious but aesthetic air to it. Very Zen, I will say. We entered a room that was rustic in style with thick wooden tables and a view of a picture perfect garden to tell you the time of day and what was going on with nature. I had no idea what to expect since I had never before eaten Japanese food.
I had teriyaki chicken that was served with rice, a few side dishes, and a miso soup. The food was so delicately flavoured, and I fell in love with Japanese country food in that instant. Simple food that can touch the soul and the serving size, most unlike American portions, was perfect. Satiating as against filling. So unlike the feisty Indian food I am used to yet completely satisfying. And they serve no soy sauce, salt or pepper at the table. Everything was perfect: the ambiance, the company (I never did understand the American thing against socialising with people from work – here is a group of people I have a lot in common with – good conversation is always assured. Perhaps it is not applicable to people in creative fields?), and the food. No sluggish after effects at work either.
I checked before writing if Domo was still around. I am very happy to report that not only has it been around for these last nine years but it has also been judged the best Japanese restaurant in Denver and 5th best in the US! And the prices are amazingly the same as they were nine years ago. (How I wish Delhi restaurateurs would figure out ways to serve good food without it costing an arm and a leg!). I pray they open a place here before I die.
3. Mike’s Lime Margaritas: I am going to include drinks because I must.
There are many reasons that I think leaving a little son and the husband to go and study on the other side of the world was worth every bit of that precious time. One of the reasons that surfaces at the top: I got to have a Margarita!! I didn’t drink (alcohol) before because nothing tasted better than good old lemonade. Until, at one of the gazillion parties we had (being a grad student in the department of Landscape Architecture at KSU was a blast), Mike made his lime Margarita for me. Hook, line, and sinker! On ice, with salt. Not the frozen slush stuff. Now the husband loves them too and agrees that everything evens out in the end!
There are many a great place for good Margaritas in Colorado. One of the best I had was in a restaurant (I forget the name) near Pearl Street Mall, Boulder. They were scary smooth. I ordered a second but only looked at it lest I make a spectacle of myself on the way back. I regret that. I should have.
4. Bombay Pav-Bhaji: An ingenuous spicy medley of vegetables (potatoes forming the bulk) cooked with tomatoes and onions, usually mashed to smithereens, topped with oodles of butter and cilantro, served with buttered pan-grilled pav (a type of roll). As if it was not spicy enough, in Bombay, it is served with a chutney made with red chili peppers, black peppercorns, and garlic. Amongst the best street foods to be found in India. You can make a very good home-version using Everest Pav Bhaji Masala.
5. My mashed potatoes: Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food to me. And mashed potatoes remind me of all the wonderful times with friends who shared their holiday traditions with me – their Thanksgivings and their Christmases – when they were my family away from home. Best with gravy of course, but very happiness-inducing on their own as well.
You’ve got it right if you are using nice floury potatoes and not skimping on the milk and butter. A good pinch of salt and a generous one of pepper, and you are all set. I like them fluffed up with a fork and served with some stir fried beans and home-made rolls. I have heard they are good with some chipotle or garlic and even herbs. I’ll try the variations when I’ve had enough of the plain ones. In the next life..maybe :-)!
There you have it – five things you must eat/drink before you die.
Thanks, Carolyn. This was challenging but fun. And in the same tradition I would like to tag Nandita at Saffron Trail to share her ‘must eats’.
Feel free to share your lists, as comments if you like.