We decided to make a holiday of dropping A off at his college where he begins a new chapter in his life. I put in extra hours at work, squeezed in that second visit to Calcutta, (and stayed away from the blog!) and we were all set.
But let me start at the very beginning… because there is food there as well…
We started for the airport giving ourselves ample time having learnt our lesson just last month when TH and son nearly didn’t make it to the flight on the day they were to report for admissions! What can I say, we are a very laid-back family!
Yet, I didn’t make time for packing some lunch. I don’t care much for the “gourmet sandwiches” they sell on the flight. But where was the need to worry when we now have a spanking new Terminal at the Delhi Airport with all the choice we need, right? W-r-o-n-g.
We checked in and, naturally, there was time to amble around. TH and son went gadget shopping and I followed my nose to the barista. Baker Street cafe – interesting name I thought. The stuffed puff pastries looked so inviting… and wouldn’t they just be the answer to Indigo’s chilled paranthas and samosas? I bought two chicken patties and one paneer – for the vegetarian in the family – put into a neat brown paper bag with napkins. I was looking forward to lunch on the plane.
An hour into the flight Indigo announced it’s delicious fare. But, this time I was prepared! Or so I thought. For all the well meaning governmental efforts to ban food off the streets of Delhi to make it a world-class city (what is that?) we seem to have overlooked the over-priced under-refrigerated food sold in the newly-opened cafes at our world-class Terminal 1D, and elsewhere! The food only looks fresh; it has probably been sitting there a few hours. And in the case of Baker Street cafe, a few hours in warmed cases!
You know how big that bite is when you have been anticipating the creamy subtly spiced chicken-mince stuffed inside the flakiest pastry? I took that bite. Err… that did not taste right… Baker Street was no Wenger’s that was for sure. Still… a second bite, a bit tentative this time. Nope all was not well. So I did the ‘spoiled food’ test – broke off a piece of the aforementioned food – sure enough, there was that stringy slime! Yuk, thoo! TH’s paneer patty wasn’t spoiled (yet), but it was not as if it was good. So chilled samosas it was. How I wish Indigo would invest in a food warmer. I love the airline, I really do.
And in case you are wondering how will you get a taste of Delhi chaat, don’t stress – like all other efforts at making us law-abiding citizens, this too has failed and faded from memory. For once, I am not complaining.
We had an eventful flight to Goa. Indigo has a reputation for being on time. But this is monsoon season, so turbulent weather is taken for granted. The plane before us had had a rough landing and had skid off the runway. It was being towed away when we were all lined up to land. The Captain assured us we had enough fuel. Which was a good thing. We circled over Goa for a long time, the turbulent patch becoming more familiar as we flew through it again and again. I doubt if Indigo made any profit on that flight that day. At last, after an additional hour in the air, the pilot announced we were on track. The houses grew bigger and bigger, and the green crisper and lusher, but suddenly instead of lowering the landing gear we went full throttle and up… The Captain had spotted a pack of dogs on the runway! Once more is the charm.
We, therefore, could not make the connecting train to Udupi, which is not the sleepy town that the station makes you think it is. Karnataka is one of the more ‘developed’ states of India, with a poverty ratio much lower than the country’s average. Teeniest of villages have good road or rail access. Signs of renewal were everywhere – roads being upgraded, railway stations being spruced up. Udupi enjoys a special status as a college town. Manipal University was established here over 60 years ago and has grown to enjoy a formidable reputation, especially for its College of Medicine. All this has meant better health facilities for the locals. Udupi today boasts health parameters that rival developed countries!
From my impressions I would gather that much of the local cuisine gems are still confined to home kitchens. I found much the same fare at all the restaurants in Udupi at least. Recall the amazing variety I had sampled in under three days during my last visit? But anywhere you go you are sure to get a mean idli-sambar or masala dosa, and filter kapi to die for; it is, after all, the town that has given us the no-nonsense Udupi restaurants that surround us!
Which is not to say I didn’t make any new finds. I tasted gudbud ice cream. How could I not? All of you were recommending it! Gudbud is a sundae – scoops of various flavours of ice cream (vanilla + strawberry is what I had) layered with plentyful nuts and chopped fresh fruit. I tasted the wondrously sweet small local bananas; I would guess they were either the Rasthali or neypoovan variety. In Southern India the connoisseurs get to pick from local banana varieties while all we get in Delhi are the sad Cavendish. 😦
Jog falls…behind the umbrellas and the mist. 😀 Here is what Jog (pronounced – Joag) falls look like when she lifts her veil. Spectacular.
Another thing – during the monsoons along the Konkan coast, it never rains. It only pours! But it is not the spanner you might mistake it for. It is life sustaining. And people just go about their work as usual, rolling up their lungi or just not minding pants invariably wet at the ankles. One afternoon, we were drenched in less than half a minute when we stepped off the bus from Mangalore and took a tad long to open the umbrella.
In the little time we had free (college admissions being the prime reason we were there, remember?) we did get to taste a good thali meal at Mangalore, a visit to the vegetable market near the Udupi bus stand and the famous Krishna temple nearby, and plenty servings of idli, dosa, and khara bhaath. Needless to add, I started my day with a tumbler of strong filter coffee every morning. If I could get coffee like that I might give up tea! 😉
Shops around the Krishna temple at Udupi overflow with exquisitely crafted wooden tools and containers. I fell in love with the traditional rice measures made with the wood of the jackfruit tree. I also bought a pointy slender tool meant to flip appe! There were masala dabbas in all sizes, and churners and mashers so well crafted that now I wish I had bought a couple. So what if I already have more than I need, I can always be a collector!
I brought home some familiar and some new flavours: local boiled rice, mor milagai, jackfruit papads, plantain chips, Mangalore wheat halva; even a sambar cucumber! 😀
Ah, yes, the Quiz. Those, indeed, are flower buds of the arecanut tree, a favoured offering to Lord Krishna! Many of you guessed correct: Anjali, anonymous, Manisha (did you cheat a little?), M, Raaga, Ammu, Shilpa (with help from her Aayi!). Well done, girls!
I was thinking with some of us wishing to correct the misconception that Indian food is hard to cook, maybe we can showcase something that is festive, sinful but does not involve hours in the kitchen, the last place anyone wants to linger in in this muggy weather. What could it be?