Travel writing & the art of writing about Food

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“we counted fourteen separate hors d’oeuvres – artichoke hearts, tiny sardines fried in batter, perfumed tabouleh, creamed salt cod, marinated mushrooms, baby calamari, tapenade, small onions in a fresh tomato sauce, celery and chick-peas, radishes and cherry tomatoes, cold mussels. Balanced on top of the loaded tray were thick slices of pate and gherkins, saucers of olives and cold peppers. The bread had a fine crisp crust. There was white wine in the ice bucket, and a bottle of Chateauneauf-du-Pape left to breathe in the shade”

” The main course arrived – rosy slices of lamb cooked with whole cloves of garlic, young green beans and a golden potato-and-onion galette

“The cheese was from Banon, moist in its wrapping of vine leaves, then came the triple flavours and textures of the desserts – lemon sorbet, chocolate tart, and creme angalise all sharing a plate. A coffee. A glass of marc from Gigondas. A sigh of contentment.”

Peter Mayle can be irritating. Here I had just finished what most observers would call a sumptuous Sunday lunch and settled down to read his “A year in Provence” and before you know it, I am panting for more food. I must say this for the man. He can bring food alive . Continue reading

Times Food Guide 2008 Awards and launch in Bangalore

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(Telugu actress – or, Actor as they seem to prefer it - Ileana giving away a prize)

The latest edition of the Times Food Guide, Bangalore was launched over the weekend with much fanfare at the Windsor Manor.  And I found myself in a Page 3 gathering, not my natural watering-hole. For some reason, the good folks who ran this shindig decided that I was to be one of the 20 odd people giving away a prize and so I found myself wedged inside an unlikely group including Kannada actors Ramya & Ganesh , the snooker player Pankaj Advani and Wipro CFO Suresh Senapati among others.

I gave away the prize to Dakshin the south Indian cuisine restaurant at the Windsor. Which was a relief, since I do genuinely like Dakshin. But specialty food in 5 star restaurants is, in general, not for true foodies. Continue reading

Haggis

Take 1 sheep’s lung, 1 sheep’s heart, 1 sheep’s liver & 1 sheep’s stomach. Add oatmeal, onions, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt & pepper. After much gruesome pummelling of all of this, voila, you get Haggis. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland, a dish that I had a few times during my sojourn there.

Serving Haggis is pure theatre. A kilt-clad scotsman walks in, bearing a platter on which sits an innocuous , steaming lump. He sets it down and begins a loud recitation (‘An ode to a haggis‘, by Robert Burns) all the while strutting around the platter. As soon as the poem gets over, a long sword is produced and with much ceremony, the haggis is cut.

It must have been the extreme cold in Scotland; but, I didn’t find Haggis unpleasant at all. Interestingly, while all this was going on, my thoughts turned to my homeland. In times long gone by, the colder regions of the world had to necessarily eat ‘aromatic’ concoctions of meat to stay alive. It was the desire to improve palatability of this stuff that lead westerners half-way across the world in search of spices, notably black pepper. In that quest lay the first seeds of globalisation and the eventual rise of a little sliver of land in the southern coast of India to medieval-world eminence : Malabar (Kerala).

I dug into another helping.