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Thursday, December 31st, 2009 | Author:

Cheers, we are entering in the last year of the 21st century, after today. I wish you a happy new century. A phone call from my residence made me think a little about this celebration. For your information (people who do not know) there is a lunar eclipse on the 31st December 2009. The earth will cast its shadow on the moon tonight prime–time (9:30 to 1 AM). Most of the Delhi clubs, restaurants and discotheques will be full and hic, spirits will be high.

But a word of caution comes from my mother, “son, during a lunar eclipse people should not eat anything.” I said, “What do I do now?” She says, “try and have your dinner before 9:30 and celebrate (if you want tomorrow).” There is no sound on the other side of the phone, Ma hung up. Our astronomers today can predict when such an event will occur, I read it’s 2018. This magnificent clockwork of the heavenly bodies have displayed signs of grandiose time to time, at the same time encouraged conservatism and superstitions throughout the globe.

Let me tell you some popular beliefs associated with lunar eclipses. Apart from the most common belief which is terrible that protracts that an eclipse of the sun or moon is associated with destruction and the end of the world. The world would have destroyed a million times by now, if that belief was true. There are some more….

  • Pregnant woman should be careful and not touch her belly.
  • Ancient Chinese call the eclipse as lunar yueshi (lunæ devoratio) and ascribe that to the plotting of a dragon. The Chinese believed that the dragon was eating the Moon. To scare away the dragon they will shoot cannons.
  • The people of India still hide inside during the eclipses, because they believe the moon allows bad rays to hit earth.
  • People in India break and bang pots and lot of other noises to keep evil forces at bay. The evil forces are taking away the moon, they believe.
  • Some noises are still being made by various instruments in Persia and some parts of China.
  • Some Americans believe that the sun and the moon are tired.
  • The Indian credence is that a snake eats the sun and moon when they’re eclipsed.
  • Eskimos will turn their utensils over to avoid them being contaminated.
  • Some Hindus believes that a demon devours these heavenly bodies.
  • Babylonians somehow believed that the Moon being hidden was a bad omen and some place in the world is doomed for sure.
  • One of the extracts of bible says that when a moon turns red Apocalypse or catastrophe will come. (Genesis 1:14-19 DAY 4)

Cant say about mama, but I look forward to see this once-in-a-blue-moon event tonight. Join me if you want to be a part this awe-inspiring and wonderful heavenly enigma which we are about to witness. Happy new year, friends, see you next year.

Wednesday, February 04th, 2009 | Author:

The smells of food always enticed me. You know how you can smell spices being fried in ghee, their soft, hissing sounds in the non-stick pan. It just lets you soak up the mingling smells, letting you know that its time to tip in the onions. When you have sugar bubbling ever so gently in a pan, just watch it turn into the color of caramel and the scent of slightly burnt sugar seeps into your senses. That’s when you know its time to do something fast so that you don’t bake the pan itself in burnt sugar. Well, I thought, why not share my thoughts about food? I mean, let’s face it, we all love good food and dining.

Malayalis and Food
Like most Indians, the Malayalis (people from Kerala, not Maldives!) are known for their love for food, especially non-vegetarian food. Just the thought of fried fish and chicken fry can send Malayalis into rapture. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that in nearly every Malayali’s home, food is the most talked about topic, next to politics and religion. The usual greeting when you step into a Malayali home begins with what food can be served to the guest right away. Even the success of marriage celebrations in Kerala is assessed on the quality of the three course traditional feast or sadhya. Of course, if the food wasn’t tasty enough, the brickbats fall on the girl’s family for years to come. You see, how marriage-life-threatening food can be in Kerala?

But these days, Malayalis are obsessed about eating mainly North Indian dishes whenever they visit any restaurant or hotel in Kerala. Paneer dishes, tandoori food  and Chinese dishes are a huge craze in every part of Kerala. Any restaurant worth its name has to have at least one Paneer dish and a Chinese dish in its menu. Pizzas, burghers and noodles are not very popular in families and tend to be dumped by the majority as ‘junk food.’

So, you see, that’s why I decided to go ahead and talk on and on about food. After all, it’s one of those essential things about life that we can talk about even with our enemies!

Skimmer’ Woes
Hey, when it comes to food, I am a skimmer which means I look at a meal and decide what is delectable and what is gross. Cantonese Chinese Fried Rice, for example, needs to really look light and fluffy or else it will taste like rubber. But culinary experts know the trick. They scramble the eggs first before cooking the rice itself. Then they go ahead with the usual stir fry.”

I know what you are thinking. What does it matter, really, if the eggs are scrambled last for fried rice? It’s just Chinese fried rice, just like chow mein, yes, I know what you are trying to say but the beauty of cooking is that you can’t simply toss in all the leftover veggies and scraps to create something truly delectable, can you?

That reminds me. I had a friend called Hiran, whose lunchbox was the envy of an entire organization. Even when she fasted, her lunchbox would be so artistically packed with cut fruits arranged in layers. She just had to open her lunch box and everyone is begging to taste the delicious food her mom makes.

Over wait
If you have visited  United Coffee House, (Connaught Place, Delhi), you would understand what waiting means. I’ve gone there with friends and waited like ages, because the table was not ready and the queues outside the restaurant make me feel like a refugee than a guest.

Seriously, I am not a hotel managing wizard but couldn’t waiting guests be provided seating arrangement in a waiting area inside the restaurant? It lets guests like me spend time by reading the menu, learning new spellings of new dishes, things like that, you know what I mean.

That reminds me of the service at The Chinese (Connaught Place, Delhi) where within moments of arrival, an elegant Chinese hostess steps in to make sure that guests who have to wait have a tiny area right near her desk to remain seated. The seating overlooks the outdoors which makes it relaxing too.

Once customers are shown inside, the hostess comes over to make sure they are comfortably seated, served with water and have the menus and cutlery ready. This probably takes about five minutes of engaging the customer and creating a wonderfully cared-for experience. That’s what a good manager does. Then, guests are treated to a miniscule teaspoon ‘ice cream dot’ treat. The thing is the dot is tinier than a mole but the visual experience and rich feel spells oomph, especially when served by a very pretty looking Chinese belle dressed in a silk kimono. What a way to wait! But you know, the Chinese and Japanese always come up with great ideas when it comes to optimizing management related processes.

Take the example of the famous Japanese restaurant Nobu which has branches in New York, Dallas and Miami Beach. No matter how many guests are waiting, the Nobu staff are famous for transforming the waiting phase into a relaxing experience. They manage the waiting period effectively by keeping guest engaged in other services. In hospitality sector, it’s even termed as the ‘Nobu experience.’

In contrast, the popular South Indian chain of restaurants, Saravana Bhavan (Connaught Place, Delhi) hurries you not only by forcing you to race through the maze of tables and grab your seat but you are forced to practice your karate skills and knock off the rival racing guest to grab your seat.

It’s the same in Andhra Bhavan’s canteen. Maybe this is with the view to improve guests’ fitness and stamina, but I find that my appetite disappears. Orders are taken in such a lightning rush that you can’t even ask a query about a dish without being given looks. You should try your karate and racing skills there, believe me, I’ve nearly done it! Once when we hated our firangi boss, we took him to Andhra Bhavan for farewell lunch and ordered the Hyderabadi chicken fry and while the rest of us were licking it off our plates, the poor Australian guy was having tears coming out of his eyes. He had never eaten anything so spicy in his life! Before you think I was mean, please remember it was ‘team work’, no pun intended.

How can you eat when you feel so rushed?

There’s a fine balance that needs to be drawn in the context of serving fine food and managing table flow dynamics because we don’t merely visit restaurants to eat. We visit these places to unwind, talk, soak in the ambience, feel pampered and relieved from external pressures. It’s so many things rolled into one, you know.

At  Saravana Bhavan, there are countless occasions when couples can’t even linger over their ‘filter coffee’ because the bill is literally slammed noisily onto their table. Again, a serious sign of bad food service.

Leftovers
There’s always a debate as to whether it’s classy to bring back leftovers from a hotel. Different people feel differently about it. What would you do if you went to a restaurant, ordered food that you thought you could finish but end up eating just half of it?

Well, let me confess that I bring it back home to eat. After all, if it is tasty and I paid for it, why shouldn’t I do that? Why should i waste the food? Of course, in places like KFC, I can finish the whole thing in minutes because as their ad says, ‘its finger-lickin’ good.’ In places like Saravana Bhavan, I have many friends who get the coconut chutney and sambar packed additionally because they find it so tasty and irresistible.

Well, every one has experienced a sweet and sour memory or feeling about food. Some food brings happy memories, others make you nostalgic. It’s not just about eating tasty food but about experience yourself, the others around you and building new bonds through food. Sometimes you find yourself able to talk peacefully with people you don’t know over food, at other times, you just feel peaceful eating by yourself and watching others do the same.

Let me finally end my thoughts on food with the wise words of La Rochefoucauld (don’t ask me who he is but his name sounds intelligent though I can assure you I don’t have a clue!), “To eat is a necessity but to eat intelligently is an art.”