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[…This is the last in a series of posts on my experiences in “Little India” (view the first one here)]
One of my favourite days in little India was a hot sunny day in 1993.
It was the type of day with blue skies, cotton-puff clouds, and channa that smelled so good you’d almost be willing to bathe in it.
On this particular day it felt like a festival was happening. I don’t believe any actual festivals happen in July, but nonetheless the Indian bazaar was bustling…
…We exited the minivan one by one, gazing left to right, not even knowing where to start. I imagine you’d feel the same, since on this special festival-feelin’ day, the shops had filled the sidewalks with their finest goods. It really seemed to liven up the area, so much so that the rows of rainbow fabrics, alarm clocks and Bollywood cassettes were enough to cover most of the ground (the ground which was normally adorned with used diapers, crushed-up cola cans, or scraps of human hair (or all of the above)).
But me? I already had an alarm clock, and fancy glittered sarees would be wasted on my man-boy frame. As for the cassettes, there were already rows and rows to choose from in my father’s study.
Which left me with a single focus:
-The food stalls
These temporary stalls were a treat, since they signalled something better than the usual menu of a restaurant. It didn’t really matter that the food was exactly the same (and slightly less sanitary), the point was it was offered from a stall today: limited time only, don’t delay!
And my father certainly didn’t. In fact it was the one and only time that he would loosen up his wallet and let us have a crack (and not just coins…bills baby!). The motives for his charity were very clear: eat more Indian food, become more Indian.
And so our family Indian-ized ourselves, via excess calories and tons of oil, in the following sort of way:
-Fresh sugar cane juice? Two glasses please! Pistachio flavoured kulfi? Hell yes! And don’t forget to top it off with a glistening plate of freshly-fried pakoras! (we didn’t forget, because it’s not the Indian way to ease up after dessert…)
Though I assumed that the feasting was over (after three consecutive hours of feasting), my dad dragged me over to the final stall, and one that he was very excited about.
The only trouble was…I couldn’t really classify the food that was being served. I didn’t see meat, I didn’t see oil, I didn’t even see a sweetening agent.
So what the hell was it?
It was a leaf, filled with a spoonful of mashed up “something”, and garnished with some drizzly red sauce. Then the leaf was folded in half and served. I didn’t see a whole lot more than that, since my dad had already gobbled it up.
Then it was my turn.
My resistance was unacceptable.
I continued to refrain.
I knew that the food was legit (since my dad hadn’t grown a curly tail or anything after eating it), but I just couldn’t make myself do it. Because you know, who eats leaves with unidentified gunk inside? And when I asked what was in it, nobody really had an answer for me. They were too perplexed by my lack of obedience.
And that’s where it stood; I refused to partake.
My dad walked back to the van with his face as red as the setting sun. He was offended and upset, bashing me at length as a shameful child of the “McDonald’s culture”…
…On the long drive home I wondered why only I had been forced to eat the “loaded leaf”, but these thoughts went quickly by as I absorbed the beauty of the day…the sun that had hit my face, the food that was slowly gliding down the tunnel of poop, it was glorious. And besides my angry father had forgotten his rage, as he pulled into the KFC to get us dinner…
…As for the gunk-filled leaf, I never quite resolved that one, nor did I ever witness a person serve or eat that again. Even with today’s technology I’m baffled, as Google doesn’t have an image or an answer.
Maybe I dreamed the whole thing up…
(but if I’m not insane and you’ve actually heard of this food, please enlighten!)
If I am not wrong, I think it was Paan. Don’t worry most indians have had it atleast once in their life. And did you know that there are many types/varieties of it available!
A channa bath? Nice! Ahh, the debris, I can almost smell it! Wait one second…I eat a lot of cultural foods, did I make myself into a Thai person last saturday? Anyway, I would have just eaten the gunky shit leaf. I live to live on the edge of dangerous. Since you cant tell me what it was I’ll just lean more towards the fact the you are crazy and dreamed it all. Weirdo!
Yes, oblivion is right. It is Paan. Here is a little lesson for you. Paan traditionally uses the betel leaf. The betel leaf is actually used for many medicinal purposes in India and Burma (Myanmar). The Burmese Green cigar uses the betel leaf as well. The coolest thing though is the betel sticks that are chewed on. They produce a red liquid called Betel juice. Don’t say that three times or he might show up. And I hate Michael Keaton (except in Multiplicity). Anyway, there you have it. I just read Burmese Days by Orwell. Topic is fresh in my mind.
I love Indian food!
And by the way, didn’t exactly need to hear the details of your “tunnel of poop.”
Note to self: Read Romi AFTER, not during, breakfast
The only indian foods i know are curry, and…w/e else they mix with it. I do love indian food, though i only come across it once in an indian moon. When you ceritan foods are fed to chaos on Sonic the hedgehog it turns into w/e that food fuels, when i was little i always wondered that about other cultures food so thank you for clearing that up!! Though i knew otherwise for i was slappin on maynoaisse and ranch dressing like there was no tomorrow…
I’ve never heard of it, but holy cow did I ever eat Indian tonight! CHEESE FILLED NAAN!!! Turns out I’ve got a rockin’ place right next to me where the waitresses are dumb as shit (and not Indian, is it wrong that that bothers me?) but the food and the owner are so unbelievably awesome! So natch you’ve got a post about food up 😉
Also, yeah, I wouldn’t eat anything unidentified either. And why do parents never believe you when you just know you’re not going to like something? My parents never did, but the daycare at lunch time did…and ended up with green pepper puke on their shoes, bahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!
the tunnel of poop, eh? i was gonna ask about that, ya know … all the oil you spoke of. made me think about the tunnel of poop and how fast those goodies could slide right outta there.
How’s the food out here?
Romi, I’m sorry I can’t help you with your food conundrum…but it all sounds delicious….but you could you please tell me what channa is?
Isn’t it interesting what “shames” our families? It’s strange that it’s not usually something that you’d think would do it either. I mean, it’s not like you pulled your dress up over your head in front of perfect strangers.
Would you do the same thing again if given the situation knowing how it made your dad feel?
I asked “The Bunny” about this and he said, “If you can’t identify it, don’t eat it.” Apparently his parents have fed him stuff that turns your insides to liquid and makes you see doves cry.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it was a dream.
Pretty sure it was at least.
Very nice post Romi. Makes me hungry for my mothers gunk-filled leaf (though she called it “leaf wrapped gunk” which, I believe, is the more accurate term)
Assuming that you’ve already asked your dad what it was and he doesn’t remember, having been drunk with all the other delicacies of the day, the identity of that stuffed leaf is lost to the mists of time. Maybe jcow81 is right, but hey, street vendors have unfettered access to leaves and gunk to put inside them, right? The best you could do is narrow it down to a number of possibles. Or find that street vendor and asked what was served back in 1993.
And BTW, I would eat pistachio flavored poop if it was served to me. That’s the best nut in the whole world. Macadamias? Pffffft! Overrated and oversized. I though you’d like to know.
Thanks, as always, for your delicious post Romi. 🙂 ♥
I really loved these “Little India” stories. I’m sorry that this is the last one. They were interesting and entertaining. That’s OK though. All your posts are entertaining.
Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse . . .
Now Orion is going to appear.
imlostinoblivion: ah…Paan! Yes that sounds like an actual thing, it must be it! Thanks for stopping by with the education, and as for the multiple varieties, well to be honest I’m fine with the one variety that I did try…don’t need to again! 😉
Justin: You know what? I will happily let you be the dangerous one who eats leaves filled with gunk..you go girl! Haha… 😉 And like…I can’t believe you assumed I was a weirdo who had dreamed it up…well now you know it is an actual thing!
PS: hahahha….”betel juice”, that’s crazy! And I KNEW there was red stuff in it!! Thanks for confirming 😉
Daddy Dan: based on things I’ve written before, I thought the “tunnel of poop” reference would fly right past you…sorry if I ruined your breakfast, haha 😉
Shweta: Mmmm…I haven’t had ranch dressing in a while…I think I need to get on that 😉 (PS: were you drunk or something when you wrote that comment? Hahaha..it was kind of hard to follow 😉 )
Emerald: Oh dude, green pepper puke, I would not want to see that!! Hahahaha…;-)
And uhhh….cheese-filled naan, are you frickin’ serious!?!?!? I can’t even imagine how that would taste…I’m kinda drooling right now 😉
PS: I don’t think that’s weird, like when I see Indian restaurants owned by Chinese people, I kind of wonder about that…haha 😉
Red: …so all the oil is like tunnel lube right?…what!?!!? LOL… 😉
Mizzy: ummm..hi. You mean…how’s the food out here in Toronto? Uhh…well I guess it’s pretty great, lots of options to choose from, haha 😉
Sammy25: OH MY GOODNESS, you MUST get yourself some channa! It’s like boiled chickpeas in a spicy gravy sauce…mmmm…you can eat it with naan if you want…mmm… 😉
dobeman: I would totally do the same thing again, like I’m sorry, but I’m not eating some freaky leaf/gunk shit..SORRY….hahaha 😉
Anja: that’s HORRIBLE!! Like I never, never, never, NEVER want to see doves cry!! 😦
Otto Mann: but it wasn’t a dream!!! Hahaha…I was right, and good old commenters #1 and #2 confirmed it 😉
Ram: oh your right! Leaf-wrapped-gunk! How did I mix that up!?!?! Hope your mother wasn’t too offended 😉
David: what a fine observation, my dad was totally drunk with all the other delicacies of the day, hahaha 😉
PS: as I’ve grown up now, I will say that I LOVE eating pistachio nuts, but I’ve grown to strongly dislike that green pistachio flavoured ice cream…weird huh? 😉
Greg: aww…I’m sorry you’re a little sad, but was the main package of memories I had…but don’t worry, I’ve taken two trips to BIG INDIA in my life, so just WAIT till I talk about THOSE experiences..hahaha…the real deal 😉
ha ha, i know!! i just reread it, i must of written it late at night, lmao i hope i was drunk! (i remember i decided to change a sentence…but i never deleted one, so it turned into that!
[…] She Journeys to India… March 26, 2009 Back in the day when I made all those trips to “Little India”, I always knew there was a bigger version of India (the real one), sitting somewhere far across […]
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