chicken masala fatigue

August 30, 2007

The other day I happened to be in central Pune (as opposed where we live and go to uni which is to Pune what Mount Druitt is to Sydney (that makes me sound a bit suburbist, but I guess I am – I’m not proud of it but I grew up on the Northern Beaches after all)).  So I was in central Pune and I decided to indulge in going to one of the few supermarkets I’ve seen here.  It’s called Dorabjee’s and it stocks a lot of imported things.  I was careful with what I bought, the prices are high by Indian standards, and even Australian standards.  I made my purchases and hurried home, looking forward to surprising my flatmates with my bundle of treats from home that we’d all be missing. 

I was greeted with the sort of reception I’d been hoping for.  We all fell on the food.  You need to understand that our diets have really lacked flare over the past month.  The only kitchen appliances we’ve been able to accumulate so far have been a kettle and a toaster.  The little corner store down the road from where we live (Choice Super Shoppe) actually stocks a surprising amount of stuff for its size, but there’s still a limit.  Some of Choice Super Shoppe’s food is a bit suspect too.  The other day our ‘brown’ bread had swirls of white through it – it looked like they hadn’t mixed the brown food colouring into the white dough enough.  Basically our meals have consisted of instant coffee, tomato on toast and choco pops.  I think I’ve lost about 5kgs just from lack of inspiration. 

There’s also a restaurant down the road from where we’re living which is a good supplement to our depressing diets.  It’s called Kohinoor (why is that word in my Microsoft Word dictionary?) and features menus inexplicably decorated with pictures of Greek alleyways and pixelated sunsets.  They make quite nice Indian and Chinese food plus they deliver.  Nevertheless, I still haven’t gotten the hang of really enjoying Indian meals for breakfast lunch and dinner.  At home I like going to Indian restaurants or making curries, but once a month maximum.  Indian food three times a day is tiring.  Also, unlike most Indian places in Sydney, ground whole spices are rarely used here, except in the really nice places.  Rather, they have infamous bags of masala powder (actually I don’t know that – but I’m visualising huge canvas sacks spewing potent red powder) with which they generously season EVERYTHING.  The same masala smell emanates from almost every restaurant or canteen and that same masala taste will haunt your mouth in the morning, pretty much regardless of where you ate and what you had and how thoroughly you brushed your teeth.  I hate to put this in writing because I wish I was more adept at assimilation and adaptation, but in all honesty, when I leave India I am never, ever eating veg masala ever again.


So, my imported purchases were cause for great excitement.  It was only when I started putting away the food from Dorabjee’s that I realised the mediocrity of what I’d bought, of what had made us all so excited.  Mayonnaise, peanut butter, nutella, bread, tuna.  By my Sydney standards that’s a pretty drab shopping-list.  But there were no tomatoes and no masala.  It was a strange but genuine moment of culinary heaven.


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