Punjabi by nature: Punjab votes and Papaya in hot milk | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Punjabi by nature: Punjab votes and Papaya in hot milk

While Punjab is busy with elections, how about some food for thought? Of the various idiosyncrasies our families have with their eating habits. Well, my immediate and extended family is definitely blessed with these crazy virtues, at times even freaking out the servers at restaurants, cafes and coffee shops.

punjab Updated: Jan 22, 2017 17:24 IST
Khushwant Singh

While Punjab is busy with elections, how about some food for thought? Of the various idiosyncrasies our families have with their eating habits. Well, my immediate and extended family is definitely blessed with these crazy virtues, at times even freaking out the servers at restaurants, cafes and coffee shops.

Have you ever heard about a warm cold coffee? I am sure you haven’t because a warm cold coffee is a cold coffee, which is microwaved for 10 seconds. That’s what my younger brother orders, sending almost every waiter into a tizzy, unless of course the waiter has a younger sibling with similar demands.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. How about plain cornflakes, with sliced banana? And, of course, no milk with it. That’s my favourite these days, a recipe I invented on the Kalka-Delhi Shatabadi. “Bhaji, eh dudh vi dindey ney (they also provide milk),” said my co-passenger a tad upset with a Singh not drinking milk. And moreover, I wasn’t even doing paisa vasooli because the butter cube was also lying idle.

“Sir, I also eat porridge without milk. I boil it in water, I replied. But yes, my father’s Mamaji (maternal uncle) is a great milk fan. A professor emeritus at the Panjab University, he drinks a glass of milk with Papaya chunks in it,” I added. That my co-passenger had got a new fruity milk recipe was clearly visible when he finally started focusing on his breakfast. I knew I had built his appetite.

Pity that he backed off soon because what I failed to tell him was my love for caramel custard with chicken curry. Since I don’t have a sweet tooth and I love caramel custard, the only way I can savour it to maintain the right balance is either with chicken curry or dal. For your kind information, I don’t add sugar to my coffee or tea to make it sweet. I add a bit of sugar just to remove the phikka (bland) taste. Ask the Sector-11 coffee shop folks and they’ll explain exactly what I mean by ‘removing the phikka’. In other words, the sweet dish in our house is virtually sweetless and food saltless.

I’m glad my wife is not around while I’m writing this column. Otherwise she would have cringed and complained about how I prefer cakes without oil and butter. She refuses to commit such sacrilege, a great baker that she is. She also hates my idea of cooking a rajma-chawal biryani, nor does she approve of us serving air-fried (in an air fryer) okra, aubergine, zucchini and long gourd to our guests. ‘This is torturing them,” she says.

It seems that I had let off my brother easily because joining me as I write this column is my son. ‘I have seen chacha eating a ‘bhartha’ (aubergine mash) sandwich. “Yuck,” he says, without realising that he has given his dad a new sandwich idea other than jam toast stuffed with fried egg. No, wonder this teenager refuses to go out with me to diners or restaurants. “Dad, who orders a lamb cheese burger without cheese?” is a question he consistently asks me whenever I have the privilege of his company. And you ruin the spicy chicken burger by asking them to serve it without mayonnaise. “Yuck,” he says again, after which I narrate him an incident at a fast food joint in Denver, America, when I asked for a double whopper in plain buns without cheese and mayonnaise.

“You ain’t got anything in it. Just take it free,” replied the Hispanic sales girl, apparently disgusted with my order. Punjab goes to the polls on February 4. Please don’t make a hash of it like the chicken khichdi that I love. Vote decisively for a better and tasteful Punjab.

(nsinghkhushwant@hotmail.com)