It has been a few days since the incident and yet the details have left me flummoxed.
Sherlock Holmes was right when he says that ‘ for strange effects and extra ordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination’. It is quoted from the adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the case of the red headed league, and inspired by the lines, I share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life.
A few days back as I reached the hostel mess for lunch I was met with a strange dish. A dish made of glistening white orbs in a reddish brown gravy. My first instincts told me that it was egg, but as the great sleuth tells us to observe all the facts , I reconsidered the facts. Fact 1. Egg considered by most a non vegetarian dish and it would not have been served with the rest of the lunch, fact 2. Eggs are considered an expensive commodity and would definitely not have been served as aplenty as they were right now. Thus , I concluded – this was NOT eggs.
Careful scrutiny showed the presence of slender stalks arising from the white orbs and after much deliberation the ‘item’ was diagnosed to be white ‘egg plants’. Egg plants conventionally are aubergine/ purple in colour. Thus, we named them albino brinjals.
Sherlock Holmes had a dependable chronicler in Watson, but alas I have none to chronicle my adventures, and shall do them myself.
You see, hostel food, food served in restaurants serve a unique situation to try our sleuthing skills. A game of ‘ Guess what you are being served’, if you please.
Unlucky are those who go from the food that their mother prepared to the food that they or their wives prepare. No sense of adventure, no thrill of the unknown.
My current place of residence believes that any thing which is edible, must be edible in the deep fried form too. As dinner begins we begin thre game of ‘ guess the fried item’. We call it item and not food, because food inherently should be edible and sometimes the dinner fries are just not edible. So a white fried item could be, potatoes , or sweet potatoes, white pumpkin or gourd family vegetable or just plain batter, or unripe bananas. The green fried items have a whole different line up. We must use all our faculties to solve the mystery. Sight, smell, touch and if all else fails… taste.
There is also the case of the flavoured rice, red rice flavoured with tomato /tamarind/ red chillies, or yellow rice containing lemon/ haldi. Sometimes there is no flavor, just colour and so its best presumed to be food colouring.
The guess what you are eating game can be both enriching as well as entertaining. It can be tried at dinner parties, shady restaurant food, wedding banquets, birthday parties. It is not without peril, and has been known to cause serious stomach upsets and indigestion. But what is an adventure without a few skirmishes.
This brings me to the albino baingans again. Why were they white, were white brinjals cheaper than its more attractive purple ones? Were white brinjals common in south India ? Yet I held back my questions, because of the first law in eating in hostel food, ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’
Which brings me to the unsolved mysteries, where even after perusing all our senses we are unable to figure out what we are eating. That is where we use the childhood trick o0f turning to the last chapter of a mystery novel to find out who the culprit is. We call the serving boy and ask ,” Boss ye kya hai ?” turning our face ever so slightly in a grimace. He names an unheard of food item “ Kya ??” we ask again .
He says something in the local language be it Maharashtrian or Konkani or Bengali or Pahari who knows… We relegate the food item to the X files.