Culinary Flashbacks

He has a long history with food. He ain't the fat kind though. Far from obese, he's lean and lanky. It's unfair. But that's how it is. The way he speaks of food, makes your mouth water.

When he was in college, campus life treated him to many delights. In his days, there used to be a guy who used to vend omelettes through a pigeon hole in the compound wall. After past midnight case discussions and team meetings, they walked down in gangs and surrendered themselves to the guilty pleasure of cheesy warm omelettes sprinkled with black pepper. He would fork out the tiny bits of green chilies. And relish the rest. Order a couple of refills if need be. He barely ate the dinner in the hostel mess. And hence, the calories never showed up.

He worked in Calcutta for a bit. A few years I guess. The city that would set your palate straight. It's so difficult to think of anything else when you are in Calcutta. Anything but food. But he wasn't in for the street food. The chaats and the pani puris. There were, are these shanties, in corners of streets. Their roofs made of hay and tilted walls nearly falling apart. These shanties dish out lunch meals as early as eleven. In the A M. And the beeline in front of them, men scattered around, holding plates made of sal leaves never seemed to dwindle. He used to be a fan of these.

Since he used to be, I used to be. He told me, they served steaming hot rice and dolloped with lentils cooked in vegetables, potatoes, pumpkin, papaya. There would be a lump of sweet and sour dessert of dates and tomatoes. On the edge, you could get a slice of lemon with salt and a green chilly. And a dish or two more. But he was more nuts about the fish in mustard than about anything else. Pieces of deep fried fish simmered in a paste of mustard and garlic. The aromas would disintegrate before me every time he brought up the fish. Garnished in fresh coriander. He would go on about the patrons of the shanty if I didn't stop him. But then again, that was very very long ago. Now, I wonder what he eats. Where he lives. And what his newly wed wife cooks for him.

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