Eating out as part of a work day or an end of the day ‘can’t be bothered to cook tonight’ lazing was unheard of in our childhood. So was impulsive eating out. However busy, ill, tired or bored our mothers were, the kitchen fires were kept burning. The only concessions to such times that required a contingency plan came in the form of a one dish meal like khichdi, varanphal or a simple meal like kadhi chawal or pithla bhaat.
Very insidiously and without batting an eye lid, we have graduated from feeling awed and excited at the rare prospect of eating out, to eating out at the drop of a hat for a any number of reasons. We have taken ‘dining out’ and even ‘ice cream or cold drinks and chocolates’ from their exclusive realm of celebration, treat and entertainment and let impulse and ease influence the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ of eating and drinking.
Today I see people polish off a 50 cent McDonald cone, a Cold Rock ice cream or gourmet gelatos with equal nonchalance. Scores of varieties of juices, drinks and chocolates are consumed for no rhyme or reason – maybe ‘because they are available’ or ‘because people feel like one’.
In the days of yore, an occasional and unexpected bar of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate would generate so much excitement that we would judiciously apportion little blocks for popping one by one into the mouth to make it last as long as possible. Even after the bar was finally finished, we would preserved the silver foil it came wrapped in flattened in books to savour the fragrance and to cherish the memories of the treat.
Ice cream, chocolates and cold drinks were invariably considered as treats and hence, were rare. The ice cream and cold drinks parlour we called the ‘mirrored shop’ was a very attractive and iconic institution.
There were several such shops in
, perhaps under the same management,
or each replicated the décor to establish brand recognition. The shop was invariably
a rectangular hall with a continuous padded seating along the walls. The tables
were individual, allowing customers to slide in and out and had individual
chairs on the other side. Halfway up, the walls had mirror panels which created
innumerable images of one, adding to the mystique charm. Hyderabad
One panel always used to be the black board which featured the painted menu, showing how it was static, while the dynamic prices were indicated in chalk. Home made grainy Kesar pista ice cream served in a stemmed cut glass bowl with a shovel shaped spoon was one of the main attractions. If parental will and or indulgence or our shameless begging prevailed, we would also get to play a second inning. A glass of the most delicious and sweet and tangy grape juice made of Concorde grapes with luscious deseeded and skinned grape jujubes floating in it used to delight us when the the juice slinked past the teeth into our tummies while we chewed on those jelly like grapes. The brilliantly coloured orange juice was essentially a sweet and flavoursome mandarin float with crunchy, juicy orange petals. Imagine my utter disappointment when I enthusiastically chose an orange juice on my first international flight with this juice in mind and almost gagged on the acrid taste of the typical canned OJ! The third option, a tad rich one, was the badam kheer AKA badam cold or almond milk shake.
This was the most delicious milk drink after mother’s basundi.
Sitting on those bright red quilted rexine seats, slowly sipping the badam milk in the tall glass and licking off the milky moustaches each sip left on our lips, we would want to linger in the joy of the taste, yet were in a hurry to finish the drink as we waited to serendipitously discover large bits of almonds from the dregs with the eagerness of urchins diving for coins.
We would also count the number of multidimensional reflections those panes of mirrors facing each other threw for us. Were we trying to prolong and cherish the experience just a little longer? Did we hope the mirrors would multiply our pleasure of that one glass of badam milk? Did we wish the innumerable reflections would store the memory of the rare treat more vividly in our little minds?
Now those quaint shops are gone, replaced by chic, glossy and more contemporary parlours and outlets of every description and size.
Only the memory remains, inspiring attempts like this badam milk…
Badam Milk – a quick, healthy and delicious milk drink I have been making since I tasted one made by a friend from
more than 20 years ago. These
measurements are what I used recently, you can tweak it to your taste. Mysore
2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into roundels and boiled (I microwave for a couple of minutes carrots with a spoonful of water)
½ cup almonds, blanched in boiling water
5 cups milk (skimmed will do)
A pinch of saffron
4-5 peeled green cardamoms
Sugar to taste (I used Spelnda)
Heat four cups of milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Place the boiled carrots, blanched almonds, cardamoms and saffron with a cup of milk in a blender and grind it into a fine paste. Add this paste to the boiling milk (you can boil the milk longer to reduce it if you like, but there is no need really). Allow the mixture to boil further for about 5-6 minutes stirring constantly so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Check if the almond paste has cooked and switch off the heat. Add the sugar or sweetener to taste.