Food Tales – Pizza One

Keep Calm and Eat Pizza

Pizza is wholesome healthy food when done right. It does not mean that you can eat Pizza for every meal.

The first time I had a Pizza was in Cakes’n’Bakes in the late 80’s. My cousins would come visiting from abroad and they would tell me tales of giant frozen pizzas which they would buy and put it in their freezer for weeks together and how each time they felt like a pizza all they had to do was take a slice of pizza from the freezer and put it in the microwave. I would wonder why the folks at home did not eat pizza and why did we always stick to Dosai, Idli, Pongal, Sambar and Chutney. The closest thing I had tasted to a pizza up until that point was the Onion Uthappam and even that was a novelty item which I could order when I went out with my parents to a restaurant.

I don’t remember the pizza from Cakes’n’Bakes but I definitely remember the pizzas we used to eat at McRennett Bakery on Anna Salai. It was these 6 inch affairs which seemed tiny compared to the description of Pizzas I had heard from my cousins. These McRennett pizzas used to sit in their display, the cheese all dried up and crusty and the pizza base near stale. They used tomato ketchup for pizza sauce and some veggies which seemed like they came from the salad leftovers from some restaurant.

Pizza Corner started their first outlet in Chennai sometime in 1996. I had just finished my 12th board exams and had joined Khan’s entrance coaching classes in Nungambakkam. The first reasons why I chose Khan’s classes is immaterial to the post but the second reason was because it was at a walkable distance from Pizza Corner. But I hardly had any money to spend on a Pizza whose prices were in triple digits. But the occasional chance when I could save some money I would somehow get my friends along too (so we could share, not the pizza). I still remember asking a friend if he wanted to join the gang for pizzas and he said “dei, ennaku indha bun, roti ellam set agadhu.” (I don’t like this bun and roti stuff) I was appalled when he uttered those words bun and roti. I used to call him “Panroti” after that. My Pizza Corner visits got a huge lift when they offered unlimited Coke at the price of one. But sadly I could either drink lots of coke or eat lots of pizzas but never both together. Tricksters those fellows were preying on young people like me. ūüôā

Then the biggies finally set shop in good old Madras. Dominos, Pizza Hut and now in the recent years Papa John’s and California Pizza Kitchen. There were also some local ones which I preferred for the price and also for their taste. I think it was Chef Express who ran an ad in local papers saying that their Pizzas would be home-delivered on a bicycle there was something about them being eco-friendly and stuff. There was our very own Pizza Republic which tasted good to my Indian Tongue. Every other Pizza joint was hell bent on reducing the consumption of rice based food in Chennai. Buy one Get one Free offers or the no cook Wednesday and No Cook Friday offers that Pizza hut keeps bombarding my phone with:) But I will tell you what never NEVER screw around with rice in this part of the country. A few months back Pizza Hut introduced Birizza which is nothing but Biriyani stuffed inside a crust, wonder what those guys were upto when they came up with that one. Each pizza joint wants to give a twist to the humble pizza. Now each time I go to an italian place I have finally figured out that Pizzas in India are as good as the Dosas in Italy. To be continued… Read more on RetroKjokken.com.

Food Tales – From The Past

Food tales is a chronicle of my experiences with food. I love what I eat but do I write about food with equal passion. These tales are an attempt to explore that and of course share my love for food.

I am a proud product of Don Bosco, Egmore. I spent 14 years of my life studying there and recently at DB Converge our alumni meet I had a chance to interact with a few of my teachers. I realized that the only people other than your parents who still get to hit you hard (even if you are old and have a huge belly to prove that you are old) are your teachers. Teachers definitely hold a much higher position than the Gods. So Mrs. Sarojini Govindan who was my Hindi teacher in primary school saw me and recognized me in a split second (even though I have lost all my hair and grown a huge paunch) and whacks me on my shoulder and says “You don’t have what you should have and have something you definitely should not have, lose your paunch Aravind.” That was indeed an eye opener for me.

I still remember amma asking me to study but I simply hated school work though I loved reading everything other than my school books. At one point my mother even locked me up in my grandfathers office room asking me to study a few chapters and when she opened the door a few hours later I was found reading the telephone directory. So amma figured that the best way to get me to study was not to use the stick but to use the carrot. I was not a bunny to go eat carrots so what did I love the most?

We simply called it “Urundai” at home. It was besan (Chickpea flour) mixed with powdered sugar and ghee and formed into the shape of a ladoo. Sometimes cashewnuts roasted in ghee would also be added.

So the deal amma made with me was, I had to finish a chapter then she would ask me questions and if I answered it to her satisfaction I got one Urundai. I would finish chapters which I didn’t have to so I could get lots of bonus urundais. So things were fine at home because of the urundais. Back in school it did not look too good. My teachers would keep complaining to my mom that I was a brilliant student but my lack of effort made my brilliance very dull. My teachers would not give me urundais when I did well in class.

So life went on with me studying well at home in the company of Urundais but only scrapping through in exams. My maternal grandfather would keep telling me that I should not have exam fear. Little did he know about my love for Urundais.

And then in 1991 Narasimha Rao became the prime Minister of India. He along with Finance Minister Manmohan Singh opened up the Indian Economy and in came food pouring in. Food that earlier could only be brought in select stores in Madras or you had to ask people who went abroad on trips.

Recipe for Urundai

1200 gms – Chickpea flour
200 gms – Powdered Sugar
200 gms – Hot Ghee
Cashewnuts

Mix the chickpea flour and powdered sugar with the hot ghee and mix well.
Make them into the shape of ladoos. I am sure you will get a lot of urundais with so much kadalai maavu.

Simple recipe, right.

We now do a healthy version of the Urundai. No Ghee, No Sugar and no Kadalai Maavu (Chickpea flour). But I will keep that for another post.

From The Past: Deenabandhu Ashram, Walajapet

ang_deenabandhu_ashram_walajapet

No one in my family seems to know when this photo was taken. But it has been lying in a file at our office for almost 3 decades now. It must be from the early 80’s.¬†This was shot at one of the functions of the Deenabandhu Ashram in Walajapet.

My Grandfather Mr. A.N. Govindasamy Nadar is seen standing ¬†in the centre and we have the former president of India Mr. R. Venkatraman to his right and he seems to be checking the time. ¬†The gentleman behind the mike was the one who was managing Deenabandhu Ashram at that time. I think his name is A. Narasimha Iyer. As pointed out by Suhalini PN I have since verified that the gentleman’s name is A. Sampath Narasimhan Iyengar. Thanks Suhalini!

If anyone has more information about the people in this photo, please feel free to leave a comment below.

From The Past: Azhagar Koil

 

Azhagar Kovil

Azhagar Koil at Sunset

Alagar Koil was the place where I had my hair tonsured for the first time in my life. I don’t remember going back to the temple since then. So recently I decided to go visit Kallalagar last week.

Alagar Koil is aptly named. It is located at the base of the Alagar Hills. The Alagar Hills is truly a paradise on earth. A pristine environment with an awesome green cover. The place is very beautiful. There is a road almost to the top of the hill. The road ends on the top at a spring called the Nubura Ganga about 4kms from the base. At about 3.5kms from the base is a beautiful Murugan Temple called Pazhamudhircholai. This is one of the Aarupadai veedu (6 abodes) of Lord Murugan.

The place sure did bring back some lovely memories from the past.

From The Past: Fiat Topolino 500C Coupé

Fiat Topolina 1949

The Fiat 500C Coupé was launched in 1950 and was quite a popular car in Europe.

This photo was shot in 2010 at a Heritage Car Rally in Chennai.

From The Past: Thirumalai Naicker Mahal

Thirumalai Nayyakar Mahal

 

The Thirumalai Naicker Mahal a palace built by Thirumalai Naicker the Ruler of Madurai in the year 1636. This Palace has been built combining designs from Dravidian and Islamic Architecture. This beautiful and imposing structure is a must see in Madurai.

From The Past: Mysore Palace

Amba Vilas

The Amba Vilas more popularly known as the Mysore Palace was completed in the year 1912 by the famous British Architect Henry Irwin. The Architectural Style is Indo-Saracenic. This palace was the official residence of the Wodeyars.

The Wodeyars don’t rule Mysore anymore. But their Palaces and their Grandeur are celebrated every year during Dussera.