Those readers who have lived through the sixties and seventies will recollect that the daily menu at home had a certain sameness and at the same time, studiously adhered to the stereotype fare for a particular community. No experiments with Chinese or Italian or Thai or Continental fare.
In a regular meal for a good old fashioned Goan Catholic family like ours, rice with fish or prawn curry was the anchor, surrounded by other items like vegetables, meat, pickle and fried fish, if there was a surfeit of fish. Dals and other lentils were a rarity.
And of course, the vegetable was cooked by my mother in a true Goan style with lots of coconut scraping added. Sometimes the main course of fish/prawn curry and rice would be preceded by soup, a ‘side dish’ of beef accompanied by vegetable and/or a salad with bread.
On occasions like feasts and birthdays, pork made an appearance on the table, whilst chicken was so expensive that it was reserved only when we had guests. And only really important guests, not just anyone. More often than not, it was chicken xacuti that was on the table.
Gradually, in the late seventies, chicken started featuring in the meals a couple of times a week, if we managed to get our hands on ‘curry pieces’, a euphemism for the remainder of a chicken and sold at a lower rate than a whole chicken, after the breast and legs were segregated for delivery to the hotels and caterers.
For my generation of Bandra Catholics, procuring ‘curry pieces’ is part of local folk lore requiring persistence and diligent networking. Whenever two or more housewives gathered, they exchanged notes regarding where these could be obtained.
Based on this information, follow up action was initiated. I still recollect being conscripted, after being rudely woken up from an afternoon nap and sent scurrying on my bicycle to some cold storage or the other to buy a packet of curry pieces.
As the price of the bird became comparatively more affordable and because of the medical profession pushing white meat for health reasons, chicken has now become so ubiquitous that on a recent holiday to Kerala, we decided not to touch chicken, at all. Instead we concentrated on eating sea food and other Kerala delicacies, but all that is the subject of another post.
Eating out as a family, as we know today, was unheard and reserved for some major celebration, like a promotion at work. The only exception was a place called Pamposh, opposite National College, on Linking Road, where I was introduced by my dad to idlis, vadas and masala dosa. I still relish the last item and it is my first choice in any South Indian restaurant.
Rather, the eating out that we quite looked forward to was being invited by someone. Especially, if that someone was not a Goan, as it would mean a variation from the regular fare. Not that the regular fare was not delicious; its just that the palate becomes jaded after eating the same dishes on a regular basis.
We were particularly lucky to count amongst our friends many East Indian families. I loved being invited to their parties as I was sure that there would be a surfeit of pork dishes, including vindalho, sarapatel and if the occasion warranted, a roasted suckling. Plus the perennial favorite, duck moilee. And all this accompanied by fuggas or a pulav.
And as part of a more regular fare, for me the piece de resistance of East India food** will always remain the beef potato chop. Actually, it is not a chop, as one may imagine; rather is a a potato pattice stuffed with beef mince and shallow fried and the mince is prepared using the famous ‘bottle masala’. Bottle masala is an essential to East Indian cooking with almost any recipe requiring the addition of one or more spoonful of the powder.
Funnily, in those days, if you liked some dish you mentioned it to your host and if you were lucky, you would be invited to partake of the same the next time it was cooked or some was sent over. Today, if we like something we either ask for the recipe or more likely, Google it.
I could go on and on about the food I enjoyed when growing up, but I don’t want to bore you especially since you have so many other blogs to visit. Maybe, I will do some other posts of this genre in the future.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.
**For more about East Indian food watch Kunal Vijaykar, The Foodie, in a traditional East Indian village in Mumbai talking about their food.