Eating out is a big big part of urban culture worldwide. One sign of India’s urbanisation has been the huge increase in restaurants and eateries. And a breed of people who are hungry, literally, for new culinary experiences.
If we didn’t have young children, we would be in that lot of people that tried every new restaurant and were up to date with the latest in the world of gastronomy. That’s thanks to Rahul, who is quite a foodie. His only two rules for eating out are- avoid Indian food and it must be non veg!
Tonight we caught the last day of the Pakistani food festival on at the Great Kebab Factory at Gurgaon’s Park Plaza Hotel. For starters, we waited over an hour to get in, chatting at the bar working up an appetite. Once inside, we were presented with a fixed menu of several kababs, none surprising but all tasty. Now fixed menus are worse than buffets. You stay put and people just bring you stuff. In this place, we realised we needed to stay focused on conversation as there were long gaps between rounds of food. The only good thing is you don’t need to think, only decide between a yes and no for everything offered.
The food was good, but not superb. North Indian and Pakistani cuisine must be really similar for it held no novelty for me at all. The quality of meat was excellent though and I wondered if they procured equally good meat for their regular buffet.
As we ate, I pondered the close relationship between food, drink and friendship. Can you be close friends with someone who doesn’t share your food preferences in today’s city life, where food has become a pivot around which our social life revolves? I wonder.
In a sense, food becomes an opportunity to interact and engage with other people. In a restaurant, it’s always fun to watch people at other tables and guess the relationships, conversation, circumstances. When you call people home, you offer them a peek into your palate and your life. When you bond over food, you take the focus away from the relationship and find the taste, the price, the presentation of the food to be great subjects to build a friendship on.
What would life be without being able to go out and eat? Boring indeed.
A quick trip to the supermarket with both kids in tow was the highlight of the day. I hadn’t been too chirpy all day and was on the verge of copping out, but Aadyaa insisted we go and Udai tagged along as well. Busybees that they are, both of them wanted to actively participate. Aadyaa clambered onto the shopping cart and I was supposed to pick stuff off the shelf and hand it to her and then she put things into the cart. We didn’t have a shopping list today, so Udai was running around finding the stuff I needed as and when I remembered it.
Fortunately, we know the layout of Needs Gourmet in Vatika City by now. So we know the cereals come first, then the jams and peanut butter stuff, then the namkeens, then the biscuits, then the boring stuff (aata, sugar, besan, dals, oil, etc), then soaps and cosmetics (which we never buy from here), then the noodles and pasta, then the drinks and finally the refrigerated stuff like cheese and butter. I was amazed to find Udai remembered where to get what from, even though he isn’t a regular on this jaunt since we shop mostly while he is in school.
What I love about shopping with the kids is how much they observe and their unending curiosity! Do we need this mumma, do we need that? Why can’t we buy that? Do you have enough money? Why have they packed so many packs in a bigger pack? When something is free with something else, what does it mean? Do we have this at home? Yes? then we don’t need to pick this up, right? And so on and so forth. (All those questions were actually asked today, not making this up!)
It is absolutely thrilling to pick stuff from the cart and put it on the billing counter. Aadyaa did all of that for me today. I keep wondering how excited they would be to see a standard Walmart type of set up where the moving conveyor belt system operates!
Udai also commented on how expensive he thought things are. He was genuinely shocked at the total and much amused by the length of the piece of paper that the little machine spat out, the bill! It set the stage for a discussion on food costs, why food must not be wasted, how processed food costs more and why it is good to buy as much as we need, not stock months and months ahead. On the ride back, he read every item on the bill aloud. His tone made it clear which were his favorites and which were of no interest to him.
Helping with the shopping means the kids know roughly what’s in stock, what ingredients are needed for what, etc. It also means they’ve picked up what they sort of like (the no junk food rule is sacrosanct at our place though, and exceptions can only be picked up by parents!). Consequently, they have a healthy interest in cooking and make good little sous chefs! Aadyaa helped out with the chicken tonight, for instance. To top it all, they love to eat what they bought and cooked, so mealtimes are effortless too 🙂 I wish I had taken a pic of Aadyaa gobbling up the chicken….
Some places are set up to stay on the list of favourite haunts and Connaught Place is certainly one of these. It’s colonnaded symmetry and monumental scale are pleasing indeed and each time I go there, which is only a few times every year, I return satiated. Of course, nostalgia plays a significant role in this. As college kids, eating joints in CP and around the Mandi House/ Bengali Market area were where we went every Saturday when the hostel mess was shut. Everything in our lowly price band was explored and once in a while, we would pool in to splurge in a place like Bercos, which was pretty much the top of the pyramid for us. Once, a dear friend Somwrita and me spent all we had on buying cold cuts from a meat shop in outer circle and walked all the way back to college (SPA at ITO) munching salami and singing songs. They were simple days and it is endearing indeed that many shops have not changed and I can still remember many landmarks. Much of the charm of CP is in going around it without quite knowing where you started and where you might end up. In time, you figure it out, but until then it is an adventure. After that, coming here is like meeting an old friend!
Tonight, a bunch of us friends had a reunion in CP’s QBA restaurant. The meal was standard, the conversation very entertaining (Natasha, Fuad, Nupur, Rahul and me). There was much ribbing and some semi serious discussions. But to me, the magic moments were when we stepped out of the pseudo exotic interiors of QBA into the charming colonial colonnade of CP. The lighting is well done and the place looks really pretty by night. No traffic sounds, just laughter and conversation of several groups of people saying their goodbyes. Sleeping dogs, sleeping men, it’s all part of the charm ! Take a look.
Our lives have become so hectic, so structured and planned that weekends end up being more hectic than weekdays. The feeling of being deprived of pleasures through the week means we over-commit to social obligations on the weekends. Plus, there are the mandatory chores to do. If the Monday blues hit you on Sunday night, it’s not only in anticipation of the stresses ahead but probably because you’ve weekended too hard!
That’s why it makes sense to schedule nothing for weekends. This weekend is turning out to be one of those chilled leisurely breaks. It started with an impromptu Friday night dinner our with family. It’s raining, let’s not cook, let’s eat out tonight! Amamma (my grandma), mom, Amma, Rahul, the kids and me enjoyed pan Asian fare at The Palms Club.
Today was even better. I spent over an hour in the pool with both the kids and a smattering of Udai’s friends. A part sunny part overcast sky lent the perfect holiday atmosphere, the water neither warm nor cold and refreshingly inviting. Saturday morning meant not too many people in the pool, only some of us ‘early’ risers. Splash wars, some serious laps and frolicking with Aadyaa, including trying to swim with her piggyback riding on me- a sure stress buster.
An unplanned mid afternoon outing to grab some yummy desserts at Sakley’s in Galleria Market accompanied with a chat session with Rahul and Nupur was icing on the cake. More unplanned stuff happened. A relaxing head massage in the salon across the road and a super family evening drinking, eating and laughing with the cousin gang- 3 generations laughing together. Could a Saturday be better?