Thursday, May 8, 2008

Orientalism

The summer trip to India grows ever nearer, and I have to say I'm looking forward to it despite the obvious drawbacks including but not limited to the scorching reality of summer in India and the fact that gold prices have gone so through the roof that there is pretty much no way I can justify (or possibly even just afford) finally buying the Golden Necklace That Got Away - the one that I fondled in the Connaught Place Mehrason's back in the summer of 2005 but did not purchase, concluding that it was "unnecessary." Idiot. All gold jewelry is unnecessary, which more or less makes all gold jewelry necessary, if you follow (and if you don't your brain simply hasn't been subject to enough heatstroke yet).

A few days ago I was shocked to see that my favorite little katie roll joint had been painted a lurid shade of orange and re-christened "the kebab factory." The sweet little chalkboard menu - sweet because an employee unfazed by his or her lack of actual talent had drawn a bird at the base of the menu - was gone, replaced by a menu of great, ominous breadth. After waiting for 5 or so minutes for an employee to appear at the take-out counter, I ventured into the bowels of the restaurant (dining area in basement = bad sign) looking for someone to take my order. Kebab Factory 101, should future potential customers wonder, is as follows:

1. Banarasi Chaat is only served at dinner. The other kind of chat (the name eludes me) is served at lunch and consists of chunks of boiled potato covered in a lumpy, brown, and (perhaps mercifully) tasteless sauce.
2. When you order paneer tikka, what you will get is a katie roll filled with some kind of saag and shredded (canned amul?) paneer.
3. It will require three employees to complete your order: one to cook, one to ring up the order downstairs, and one to stand around staring at you.
4. For all of your trouble, you will be given five plastic spoons at no extra charge.
5. They deliver!

Being there reminded me of everything I love about India: the extreme awkwardness and extreme graciousness, the good intentions, the grand ambitions, the lack of resources, and the complete and utter incompetence. All that kept it from being authentically Indian, actually, was the terrible food.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

In my experience all Indian food served anywhere but someone's actual home and cooked by anyone but the actual matriarch is not really worth eating. Home-cooked meals, however, are of course amazing.

Oh wait, Karim's in Delhi is transcendent - but they are the exception.

...I wanted to say something about the Indian population being divided into those who are wafer-thin and those who are groaningly obese, and somehow tying that to where they eat (out or in), but couldn't convincingly make the joke without coming across like a total asshole.