Friday, March 31, 2006

Food for thought

When I heard there was a ugadi food fest organized by our caterer’s, my first reaction was one of trepidation – I expected an overdose of gongura and spicy pickles in addition to the usual rices alongwith a few balloons added to give a dose of colour. Whenever our caterer's organize a food fest, it’s usually the same daily meals with a few extra symbolic dishes thrown in to justify whatever the cuisine served (Chinese/ pongal/ North Indian etc), but balloons being hung all over the cafeteria remains a constant, perhaps to divert our attention from the authenticity of the food.

Imaginary conversation between colleague 1 and colleague 2 in cafeteria during Chinese food fest

C1: This noodles is only so-so
C2: Yes but the gobi Manchurian is good stuff. Kimchi is awful though
C1: Don’t think that’s what the kimchi is supposed to be though, going by the actual culinary dictionary.
C2: Heck what are you saying? They hung balloons. That speaks volumes for the dedication they’ve put in. It must be an authentic Chinese food fest.
C1: (nodding sagely) : Oh yes, you are right.

Coming back to the ugadi fest, it was the menu which set my taste buds tingling. It just sounded so exotic. Merapakkaya gujju. Rubudu charu. And so on. What epicurean delights would these dishes hold? If the dishes were half as good as the names sounded, I would be getting my money’s worth. After all, who has not licked his lips in anticipation after reading about Anatole’s Timbale de ris de veau Toulousaine or escargot a la crème, but reading it as snails with cream sounds so unbearably unedible. For those who have lost the plot here, and haven’t heard of Anatole, or his cooking, well, wake up! Instead of wasting time reading this, go read Wodehouse.

After starting off with a sweet ( whose name I sadly don’t know) , I started off with the pesaratu and the pulihara. Then loaded my plate with the pappus – pappu namidikiya, pappu mandikaya and pappu passhogaya. Think we were cautioned against taking too much as it would be very spicy but one of them, unexpectedly, turned out to be very sweet. Next item on the buffet list was bangaluthupa koora. Who would’ve thought that the humble aloo curry had a super human alter ego and would metamorphose into an amazing dish when taken as bangalathupa koora.

It turned out our mundane rasam was rubudu charu, and that just made it so enticing but deciding to free annam( or rice) I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to taste it. The last course was perugu annam which amply justified the theory that thayir sadam by any name would still be as divine. The gongura was good, as spicy as it should be, and the avakkaya urukkaya with its deep red and black shades drew my friend and I to question its etymology to Tolkien’s Uruk-Hai, who look much less frightening though compared to this fiery dish, looking hot enough to cause submerge all coastal cities and cause massive floods by causing all polar ice caps to melt.

With a contented burpu, I ended the meal, determined to try out more Andhra places ( mandatory caveat --- list of dishes has to be present and described fully )