Monday, February 16, 2015

A Seefood Diet -Part 2

My ma-in-law says she eats to live. I beg to differ as my reasons are quite the opposite. Everyday is a chance to step into a new adventure, be it food, philosophy or plain practicality. With these adages in mind I pick up my fork in Pune. Prassy feeds me many morsels. Sitaphul kheer that has me in paroxysms of pleasure. Each spoonful is savored and relished. I eat bowlfuls and then move on to a plate of fresh sitaphuls. Then again I know I will not get to eat the fruit for a long time. She doles out a ghee flavored red carrot halwa, which reminds me of Mum's winter predilection with this dessert. We only ate gajar halwa in January to March as these large red carrots are cultivated around this time of the year. And by large, I mean carrots that are 15 to 18 long!!

By happy coincidence I bump into an old college friend, Vaman.  he invites us for a home cooked meal of cauliflower, fried fish, freshly made phulkas, dal and rice. I appreciate the simple version of a Maharashtrian thali more than he will know. Another dear friend crosses my path. Jyothi and I go back some thirty odd years when we worked together at Contemporary Arts & Crafts. I carry with me her zest for life, her zany sense of humor, but most of all her ability to laugh at herself! We share stories, her memory being sharper than mine! Being from the south she promises me filter coffee. I watch as she expertly froths the coffee. I take a foamy, milky sip. Among coffee notes is a sharp ginger flavor, that increases with each sip! I figure that she has tried a new version of madras coffee. Jyo too sips hers, with a confounded expression. We query about the taste. Realization dawns as she figures the coffee thermos she uses regularly houses her strongly flavored ginger tea!!! This reason is cause for much merriment as a tiger really cannot change his stripes!!! What I cherish is after all these years that Jyo is still Jyo! 

The week begins with a series of invites from my sister's friends. Falguni, treats us to dinner at La Plasir. This tiny 6 table bistro serves amped up French/Italian small plates. We share a delectable fresh fig and buffalo Mozzerella salad. Indian inspired ratatouille comes rolled in hearty whole wheat crepes. Pasta Aglio Olio swims in chile flecked butter. We ooh and aah as we share plates. Another friend Reena, dishes up a typical Maharashtrian meal, served with a most intriguing garlic tarka dal. Atul and Aarti invite us to their house for an evening where art and food feed heart and soul. Puneri hospitality at its best!!!!

We make a few incursions into South East Asian cuisine. Sun Moi satisfies  the Indian Chinese palate, with crisp, coriander chile coated prawns, not once but twice. A really tiny Vietnamese restaurant makes us sit crossed legged on not so plump cushions. A large meal of pho, pork bun noodles and really fresh summer rolls leaves us struggling to get off the floor!! Cafe Maroo, a Korean surprise, offers us a large beef repertoire in spite of a severe shortage of beef in the state.

I crave home-cooked food, so Prassy parades her repertoire. Pomfret fry. Mutton curry. Methi bhaji. Batata vada. Bheja fry. Crab curry. Stir fried prawns. Melt in your mouth dahi vadas. Paani puri. Ragda pattice. Hot jalebis with rabdi. Freshly made chappatis painted with ghee. And that piece de resistance, sitaphul kheer. I feel and look like that thanksgiving bird. Dog walking is the mandatory form of exercise!!!

We cook together a few times. I make squid ink pasta, zucchini pancakes and stir fried veggies. A meager contribution after my sister's Herculean effort.

I am sad leaving this place where I am coddled and cosseted. The warmth of family envelops and binds me to my sister. I know I will be back sooner than later.