Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A taste-bud's initiative

In Pune, every Thursday, I follow a ritual to go to a particular place of worship, for which I have to take a different route than the usual. And in this particular right turn that I take, Pune transforms to Mysore instantly! Thanks to the aroma of hot Sambhar wafting to the roads from Pune's THE South Indian restaurant. And thus, begins my weekly food nostalgia..

The same Thursday routine was followed in Mysore too (during my graduation days), and almost always ended up in the churmuri stall. I have travelled so many places in India, but I am yet to find churmuri like the one made in Mysore. Even neighbouring Bangalore does not come close. My brother once said, "I thought I will miss street food when I go to the US for higher studies, but I already miss it in Bangalore!" Such is Mysore's cuisine! :)
Churmuri!!                                                  PC:Pavan Reddy
My favourite and longest memory associated with food is during the lunch break at JSS Dental College for all the 5 years of BDS at the Katte. Lunch hour was the most anticipated hour of the day. The lunch boxes would be passed around for everyone to have a bit of the multi-cuisine lunch menu, what with having a group which had Coorgi, Christians, Muslims, Andhrite and a Kannadiga. So, you can imagine what a smorgasbord it was! 
Lunch time at the Katte
There were times when our dear friends in hostel would crave for home food during clinical hours. And student's lab was the best place to quickly go and sneak in some food into the tummy, irrespective of whether the tummy was grumbling or not! ;) The hostelites would return the favour by getting us bottles of yummy buttermilk from the hostel. Yes, you read it right-hostel food can be yummy too (conditions apply!) :P Speaking of students lab, we were overwhelmed when the patients, who were overwhelmed in the first place, got us food in those layered tiffin boxes! It was enough to feed an entire department! Cherish those fleeting moments :) By the way, am I the only one fascinated by these type of lunch boxes? I remember my salivary glands working over time while watching the movie 'Lunch Box'..
Eat while you work :P. My lunch box doing the rounds in the student's lab
When we are talking about food, how can one forget the place that we would resort to when we did not get lunch box - the canteen! During our times, the college canteen was pretty rudimentary compared to the huge building that it is right now there. I have seen the canteen's metamorphosis from the fenced wall canteen where fried rice was a standard order to the much more sophisticated, yet small canteen in 2005-2006 which served combos and swirl ice creams! Before this place came up, we used to buy orange/ mango/ grape ice candies from a small stall behind canteen which also housed a coin phone booth (yeah, thaaaaaat era!)

If we had slightly more time during the lunch break, we would head out to our then haven, Nimra. What a place! Pity, it does not exist in all its glory now. It catered to almost every cuisine (which we knew of then), and THAT was finger licking good indeed! The cost was very affordable and hence, it became our second canteen! Nimra has since then changed locations and hands. But, it still is a prized place for us. When one had little more vitamin M, then Blue Inn was the place to go. It was nothing like what exists right now. A tiny, not-so-dingy place where you would always bump into JSSites - that was Blue Inn back then. The testimony to their food is the fact that a deacde later, it is still much talked about in our Whatsapp group :) Cool Corner was another place that was frequented, summer or not. We had our first sip of cold coffee there and that beat every other feeling!!

Somewhere in between all these, emerged Nescafe. No, it is not just the name of a coffee brand. It was where students and staff alike, frequented more than once a day. A quick meal would most often be a vada pav and peach iced tea brought from a thoughtful friend while you were stuck in an extraction. The dishes got reinvented to noodle cutlets and noodle pakodas, and even the 'humble' Maggi has left us wanting for more. The boys working there were so accustomed to all of us that all we sometimes had to do was just find a chair, and our orders were ready without having us place them! It was our 'go to' place for the 11'o clock break or lunch break or post-college chit chat except, if you were posted in OMR or Conservative dept, as these departments had a direct view of Nescafe ;). In other words, it was the local 'cafe coffee day', where you could sit for hours with just a cup or sometimes nothing at all! 
Happy times at Nescafe! Our batch seemed to be there forever!! ;)
Many more eateries tug at our memories - the hot, yummy meals at Andhra mess, tea from Aunty's, sugarcane juice and corn cob from the stalls are amongst many Well, I could go on and on. But then, the salivary nuclei in my medulla oblongata has been stimulated with all the food talk :} Time to go and take a bite. Am sure, you will be needing a bite too. ;)

A sincere foodaholic,
Lakshmi Krishnan