At a time when your grasp of basic manners and etiquette is a projection of your status and professionalism, half the fun of dining goes for a toss. Given a choice, I prefer to focus more on what’s tickling my taste buds rather than how I hold my napkin.
Last week, I had the fortune (?) of dining with a couple (professional acquaintance) at a fancy Italian restaurant. At the risk of being labeled an indolent blob, I have to admit that dressing up for formal occasions is not exactly what I look forward to over weekends. The guest couple (Indians) came along with the obsessive obsession of having lived in the hallowed land of opportunity, ‘You know- when I was in the States - types’.
Adding to the woes was the fact that my dress was bursting at the seams. After a Delhi winter of piling ‘Gazar ka halwa’ what else do you expect? Also faking a smile for long is agonizing for me. The expression always reveals the inner state of mind. I am working on it. But either you can fake it or not….Hello? I am talking about a plastic smile.
Many have a palate for authentic Italian cuisine but for me, the Indianised version of pasta or pizza at ‘Pizza Hut’ rules over the bland and boringly insipid, bona fide Italian food. Also, it so happens that I am a strict vegetarian and the most exotic starter I managed to order was ‘artichoke pasta salad’ in olive oil. While I was munching my damn zucchini and concentrating on using the silverware, the only solace in my agitated mind was that my aorta will remain unclogged for a few months. Hopefully. That is, if I exclude the rich pudding I gorged at a friend’s house last week.
All through the dinner the lady remained imprisoned in the glorious American past, unwilling to tread in the present. After some artful name dropping of celebrities whom she had spotted while watching her husband play golf, the pretty lady in pristine white rambled about her ‘phoren vacation’, ‘phoren food’ and ‘phoren brands’ between olives and asparagus. Meanwhile for me, after the goddamned Italian Lentil Minestrone, the dress tightened its grip.
In my socially adept and savvy avatar I continued munching on my main course, ‘Lasagna Bolognese’ but in reality I was so freaked out that I wanted to slink out the room like mist. Little surprise then that as dessert was being ordered I heaved a sigh of relief.
“What would you like to have?” I asked as I glanced at the menu. The menu had an array of mud cakes, Tiramisu, Biscotti and Toffee éclairs.
“Don’t they have Sweet Meat (Gulab Jamuns)?” the lady demanded.
“Unfortunately, it is not on the menu. Are you sure you want Gulab Jamuns?” I asked incredulously.
“Oh, I love Indian sweets,” she cooed. Her husband echoed wifeys desire to indulge in Gulab Jamuns.
Since the guests wish was our command, we proceeded to the nearby sweet shop and the couple had their fill of rasmalais and hot gulab jamuns .
There is no denying that no pudding or cake can beat desi ghee dunked delectables when it comes to desserts. You can take the Indian out of India but can you take India out of the Indian?