The culinary trails

The culinary trails seem to be crossing boundaries and taking us across the world so much so that we see almost every household packaging and sending favourite food items to their loved ones all over the world.

The way some people talk about their love for tasty food could have you imagine all those mouth watering delicacies. But, they seldom present you with an opportunity to taste the big list of dishes prepared by them in their kitchen.

While on the topic of taste buds, even our family has several decades of sumptuous eating habits and stories. We remember how our elder brother, who is 70-plus now, as an eight-year-old naughty child had smelled the presence of a jackfruit kept on a loft in our relative's house and had raised a ruckus till they cut open the fruit and gifted the pulp to him. No doubt, the legacy continues.

I wish to tip my hat to my mother, that great lady who relentlessly fed innumerable varieties of dishes too her seven voracious children. Since I was the greedy as well as the choosy one, my sisters had wished for a bad cook as a match for me. Their wishes went awry as the legacy only continued - my mother-in-law turned out to be a cook extraordinaire.

It was December 1981. I was part of a troupe of around 40 artistes travelling to Calcutta to present two Kannada plays - one by Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar and another by Dr Chandrashekara Kambar - as a part of the Rajyotsava celebrations in other states.

We were on the Coromandel Express, after successful shows in erstwhile Madras, when I met a soldier from the Indian Army who was heading towards the border in the North-East region after spending holidays with his family. He befriended me and we struck up a conversation, but language was the barrier. I had to recollect all the knowledge acquired during my academic career and converse in broken Hindi.

Our friendship grew over the day and he even invited me to have supper with him saying that he had brought sufficient amount of homemade food. Since food had already been ordered for our entire team, I excused myself by assuring him that I would join him for breakfast the next morning.

One the second day of our journey, I sat down to have breakfast with him, apprehension lurking in my mind about the quality of the food he carried. On the menu was poori with aloo sabzi. With all love and care, my soldier friend served the food, but what unfolded next can never be forgotten.

The moment I took the first bite, I loudly exclaimed in Kannada, "Come on, tell me the truth. You must be from Karnataka, that too from the southern part! This type of aloo sabzi is prepared only in old Mysuru and you must be from that area." Believe you me, only then did my soldier friend, with surprise written all over his face, replied in Kannada. "Amazing! Till now I hadn't met a single person who could identify the place somebody hails from by tasting the food. Unbelievable!" he said.

I wondered how he could have gone for so long without disclosing that he was a Kannadiga. Maybe, he had befriended me just to kill time and also to have some company before reaching the mountainous terrain with murky weather on his sojourn to serve the nation.

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