Someone recently asked me what was my comfort food. And it stumped me because I could not come up with an answer immediately. I used to have a ready list for the longest time. But now I could not name any one dish that I knew would always pull me out of a funk.
It led me to think.. where did my comfort lie?
Childhood was full of beckoning but yet not-allowed chocolates. It was a majorly rationed commodity. I don’t remember ever having eaten a bar by myself. That accompanying guilt is still there. And since we are two sisters, as is wont, she wouldn’t eat her share and punish me by forcing to watch it lying in the fridge. I, of course, ate up her share often. In fact, for the longest time I gobbled up chocolate. Grabbed, stuffed it in my mouth and swallowed it almost whole. No sense of the sheer bliss. But that changed as soon as I could afford to buy my own chocolate. Chocolate is still a favourite but not one I pine for. It’s too sinful to be comforting anymore.
Childhood and college meant another phase — one with fewer bottles of cold drinks, burgers, pizzas, ice cream – all of which changed once I started working. I didn’t always dive into a junk food binge but took every chance I got to eat it. It’s novelty value quickly ceased, and soon its quickness charm also eased, and today I actually would want to make something at home rather than order junk food. And now that I think back, my mother took a lot of pains to make healthy junk food back then. Of course Mac D and its ilk didn’t make an appearance till college and we actually contemplated standing in line to eat those awful burgers! What were we thinking!
Junk food cravings slowly moved onto a craving for rich dishes – creamy pastas, rich Indian gravies with ghee-slathered rotis, white-sauce doused vegetables and chicken chunks, cheesy soups, fried fish, red meat. But never-ending press conferences tired me of that too, and fast. I often got to hear from relatives (only!) ‘wow you get to eat in five stars’ (sic) and I would further shock them by saying that I actually passed up that opportunity to come back and order bad raasta Chinese. (I think that craving will always persist as there can be no dish more satisfying than spicy schezwan rice.) But just because the food is free, at supposedly five-star quality, doesn’t automatically make it appealing.
I even went through a phase of the quick-food variety. Maggi used to make me sick but I was sufficiently lazy and always looked for short-cuts. Packaged food became my new best friend. Two-minute pastas, curries, rotis, toast. But the preservative scare quickly helped me get over that too. In some ways my taste has certainly evolved.
So what do I crave for today?
Sweet peaches. A really succulent mango. One square of the perfectly bitter chocolate (still to be found in India but I guess Bourneville comes close). A slice of ripe avocado (which I know is waiting for me at home). Warm varan bhaat with limbu and ghee. Crisp toast. Eggs and potatoes. Even a hot, fluffy roti, just off the flame. Chilled lychees. Perfect custard/ cheesecake/ caramel custard. Good chocolate cake. Homemade granola. A small spoon of oatmeal. A crisp tart apple. A perfect, aromatic cup of coffee.
The list is now endless.