HT Image
HT Image

For the love of food

Dining in company or with members of the family may help bonding friendships and keeping the family together, but it takes away much of the taste out of tasty food, writes Khushwant Singh.
By Khushwant Singh | None
UPDATED ON APR 02, 2009 02:46 PM IST

As a person ages, of his five senses, four decline with the years; only one, the sense of taste for food outlasts the others. I know this to be true in my case. The older I grow, the more I think of what I will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of the three meals, the first two are nominal: a buttered toast with a mug of tea in the morning, a bowl of soup or dahi (yoghurt) at mid-day but dinner, I insist, must be a gourmet’s delight. It comprises of only one main dish with a salad to match, topped off with pudding or ice-cream. I have also discovered that in order to enjoy that one meal I must be hungry and have a clean stomach. It is best enjoyed alone and in complete silence. Dining in company or with members of the family may help bonding friendships and keeping the family together, but it takes away much of the taste out of tasty food. Talking while eating, one also swallows a lot of air with the food. This is how our Hindu ancestor patriarchs ate their evening meals. They had good reasons for doing so; I follow the precedent set by them. I also have the pattern of drinking and dining from my role model Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. He took a bath every evening and got into fresh clothes before he fished out his bottle of Scotch Whisky, poured out his measure in a tumbler, added scented surahi water to it — and drank in absolute silence while writing immortal couplets in praise of wine and women. He does not record what he ate for dinner.

When I drink alone on an empty stomach, I can feel the whisky warming its way down my entrails. I do not get that feeling when drinking in company. Likewise, when eating in company, I scarcely notice the taste of what I keep shoveling in my mouth. When eating alone, I shut my eyes and turn my inner gaze to what I am chewing and munching bit by bit till it dissolves and goes down my throat. I feel I am doing justice to my food as the food I eat is doing justice to me. Never be in a hurry to get over your meal; take your time over it and relish it.

I like to vary my food. My trusted cook of over 50 years is now too old to try his hand at new recipes. So I keep menus of eateries that deliver food handy. I try them in turns — Chinese, Thai, French, Italian, South Indian. I also have phone numbers of ladies who specialise in different kinds of food they cook in their homes and cater to people who place orders in advance. So I have a Mrs Dhupia who makes excellent Quiche Lorraine and chocolate cakes. And I have Claire Dutt who makes excellent anything I fancy.

“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are,” claimed Savarin. If I told him of the varieties of food I eat, he would probably call me a pig. But I do not hog myself. What I take is in measured quantities. For me it is the same as Savarin claimed : “the discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of man than the discovery of a star." Like Lord Byron I look forward to my evening meal as I used to look forward to meeting my dates in younger days. To quote: “That all-softening, over powering knell//The tocsin of the sod - the dinner bell.’

One final word of caution: make sure you never over-eat. An upset stomach ruins the pleasure of eating.

Nature’s Emissary
There was a time when during winter months I used to get up well before dawn, arm myself with a pair of binoculars, Salim Ali's book on Indian birds, a flask of hot coffee and egg sandwiches and set out with a small party of bird-watchers to a chosen site: it could be near Tilpet along the Yamuna or Sultanpur Jheel in Haryana. I also spent weekends in the Keoladeo bird sanctuary near Bharatpur. I picked up a smattering of information on birds but that did not deter me from claiming as an expert, writing a book called Nature Watch and doing a series for Doordarshan on natural phenomenon in and around Delhi in collaboration with Sharad Dutt. In short, I became an imposter and show-off. Although my birdwatching is now limited to my backyard patch of greenery with a few trees and a birdbath, I have a shelf full of books on birds, trees, butterflies and insects. I manage to keep up the pretence of being a know-all.

One thing I can say in my defense is that I read whatever I can find on these subjects. Most are reference books with names in Greek and Latin, their equivalents in Indian languages, habitats, identification signs, calls, nesting, rearing their broods etc. It does not make exciting reading. Rarely do I come across a book that grips me because of the author’s emotional involvement with birds and animals. Gerald Durrell is a good example of such writing. The best I have read so far is a collection of articles by Ranjit Lal, Wild City: Nature Wonders Next Door (Penguin). It is about birds, animals, and insects seen in and around Delhi. He writes in a beautiful lyrical style, evidently knows the subject well and is in love with everything he writes about including jackals, wasps, spiders and ants.

The only trouble is that he expects his readers to be interested and reasonably well informed. That is asking for too much and is the reason why he is not as well known, as he deserves to be. In my opinion he is A-1. In this book, he gives an example of the hazards of bird watching: Many years ago, I used to photograph the sea gulls that flock to Mumbai’s Marine Drive, right opposite a hostel for women. I hung around the place for hours, armed with binoculars, a camera with telephoto lens et al. If any police constable had asked me what I was doing opposite a women’s hostel equipped thus, I would have had to tell him the truth: ‘ I’m photographing gulls.’ You can well imagine the response! ‘Photographing girls? ‘Abbe saala, sharam nahin aata hai? (Aren’t you ashamed of yourself ?) Come with me to the lock-up!

I have often tried to reproduce calls of birds and frogs in print— and usually failed. I recall a pair of mynas that used to visit office in Broadcasting House. One of them kept up a monologue that I tried to put in human sounds. But I was unable to do so. Ranjit Lal has got it right: ‘Keek-keek-churr-churr-churr- kok-kok-kok keek-churr?’

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
The farm unions representing tens of thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have launched a mass agitation on the borders of the national capital.(PTI)
The farm unions representing tens of thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have launched a mass agitation on the borders of the national capital.(PTI)

Will hold peaceful R-Day parade in Delhi: farm unions

By Zia Haq, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 01:12 AM IST
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a platform of farm unions spearheading the ongoing farmers’ agitation, said their tractor parade would cover a 60-km stretch and pass through New Delhi’s Outer Ring Road, covering areas such as Peeragarhi, Janakpuri and Munirka.
Close
"Our prime ministers speak regularly and Prime Minister Johnson has said he will visit India ahead of the G7”, said a statement by the British high commission.(MINT_PRINT)
"Our prime ministers speak regularly and Prime Minister Johnson has said he will visit India ahead of the G7”, said a statement by the British high commission.(MINT_PRINT)

Boris Johnson invites PM Modi to UK for June G7 summit

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 01:05 AM IST
The summit will be held in Cornwall during June 11-13. The UK invited the leaders of India, Australia and South Korea to attend as guest countries to “deepen the expertise and experience around the table”, the statement said.
Close
Across the country, a large majority of the vaccinations done on Saturday were using the Covishield vaccine since that has one of the highest volumes of ready stock. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
Across the country, a large majority of the vaccinations done on Saturday were using the Covishield vaccine since that has one of the highest volumes of ready stock. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

India inoculates 220k individuals over two days of Covid-19 vaccination drive

By Rhythma Kaul, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:48 AM IST
According to officials, among the 207,229 who got doses on the first day, three people — or .0014% — had significant side effects. Of these three, two were hospitalised overnight and discharged the following day while one remained admitted as of late Sunday.
Close
Congress flags waves at rallies
Congress flags waves at rallies

Congress, Left to complete seat-sharing arrangement in Bengal by January end

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:42 AM IST
  • The Election Commission of India is likely to announce the schedule of the elections in February and the polls may be held in phases in March and April.
Close
The baby in the arms of a RPF woman constable.(Sourced)
The baby in the arms of a RPF woman constable.(Sourced)

Delhi lab technician helps woman deliver baby in train near Mathura

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:24 AM IST
  • The lab technician took instruction from a doctor on a video call and helped the woman deliver the baby
Close
The latest salvo against Arnab Goswami came from Congress party MP Manish Tewari, who said a joint parliamentary committee should take up the issue as the government and BJP remained silent.(Prashant Waydande / Hindustan Times)
The latest salvo against Arnab Goswami came from Congress party MP Manish Tewari, who said a joint parliamentary committee should take up the issue as the government and BJP remained silent.(Prashant Waydande / Hindustan Times)

Opposition seeks probe into Arnab Goswami's chats with former BARC chief

By Deeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:15 AM IST
There is a growing clamour among Congress leaders to take up the issue. Party leaders, on condition of anonymity, told Hindustan Times that the issue had been discussed by Congress Lok Sabha MPs. Leaders familiar with the matter said the issue was raised by Congress Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram.
Close
“The farmer unions are not budging from their stance, they are constantly asking to repeal the laws." said Narendra Tomar(ANI)
“The farmer unions are not budging from their stance, they are constantly asking to repeal the laws." said Narendra Tomar(ANI)

Govt rules out repeal of farm laws, says ready for tweaks

By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:51 AM IST
Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar said the government was ready to introduce amendments in the laws and expected farmers to discuss the laws clause by clause.
Close
The accused were arrested under section 376 (d) (gang rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under relevant section of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The accused were arrested under section 376 (d) (gang rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under relevant section of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MP: 8 held for rape of 13-year-old

By Shruti Tomar, Bhopal
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:51 PM IST
Police have identified the eight accused Akash Singh, Rahul Kushwaha, Paras Soni, Manu Kewat, Onkar Rai, Eitendra Singh, Rajnish Choudhary and Rohit Yadav. All the accused are in the age group of 20 to 30 years and they will be produced in court on Monday.
Close
A senior official of Uttar Pradesh police said that the terror alert was not from any central intelligence agency but was local intelligence input in Gorakhpur zone.(Reuters File / Photo used for representational purpose only)
A senior official of Uttar Pradesh police said that the terror alert was not from any central intelligence agency but was local intelligence input in Gorakhpur zone.(Reuters File / Photo used for representational purpose only)

Prayagraj cops submit production warrant for comedian Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:42 PM IST
  • The case was registered following a YouTube video, uploaded by Munawar Faruqui, wherein he was seen making derogatory remarks against Hindu deities among other things
Close
Health care workers administering the COVID-19 vaccine, in the presence of the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, during the 1st phase of the pan India rollout of COVID-19 vaccination drive, at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)
Health care workers administering the COVID-19 vaccine, in the presence of the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, during the 1st phase of the pan India rollout of COVID-19 vaccination drive, at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

On which days are people being vaccinated? Check full schedule of states, UTs

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Kanishka Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:40 PM IST
As many as 224,301 people have been given the Covid-19 vaccine, the ministry said on Sunday, the second day of the countrywide drive.
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Oppn seeks probe into Goswami chats

By Deeksha Bhardwaj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:32 PM IST
New Delhi: Opposition politicians on Sunday demanded a probe of purported WhatsApp chats of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, and Partho Dasgupta, former chief executive officer of the TV audience measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in which the former makes remarks that his critics say show he may have had advance knowledge of the Indian Air Force strike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Balakot
Close
HT Image
HT Image

MP: 8 held for rape of 13-year-old

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:30 PM IST
Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh police on Saturday arrested eight people on charges of abducting a 13-year-old Class 9 student and gang-raping her twice in eight days, causing her acute trauma, officials said on Sunday
Close
HT Image
HT Image

People may be allowed to self-register for a vaccine

By Saubhadra Chatterji, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:28 PM IST
The Centre may allow self-registration by the elderly and those with comorbidities on the Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) platform for faster and easier enrolment of people to receive a shot of the Covid-19 vaccine
Close
Chabahar port.(chabaharport.pmo.ir/en)
Chabahar port.(chabaharport.pmo.ir/en)

India delivers 1st batch of heavy cranes to bolster operations at Chabahar port

By Rezaul H Laskar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 12:17 AM IST
Hindustan Times had first reported last month that the cranes were set to be delivered in January, months after India cancelled a $30-million contract with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries for heavy cranes because of delays by the Chinese company in supplying the equipment ordered in 2017.
Close
The drums of illicit liquor was destroyed in the open.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)
The drums of illicit liquor was destroyed in the open.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)

Hooch bust in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh ends in death of 5 cows

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:15 PM IST
  • Local people accused the authorities of destroying the alcohol drums in the open and not taking precautions to stop access of the liquor to the cows.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP