With a name like Magan, my parents had set me up to be the punchline of the most ridiculous joke ever to happen to anyone living or braindead: that lame advert about some vegetable oil (this was before the era of Omega-3s et al) where the tagline went… waitaminute! Why am I even bothering. Suffice to say that, the word Magan always evokes Gagan followed by the “joke”. Going to a restaurant called Gaggan (Praise the Lord for the extra ‘n’) would then be too quirky, even for me. Read more
No, this isn’t about my pay-packet, or my earnings from other sources (let’s just call it dealing, I mean trading); both are currently suffering like just about every species of flora planted along a busy inter-state.
In fact, if I were to ever write about making money, it wouldn’t be a blog, I think the correct term would be SMS.
I am talking of the other green, the not so pretty green, the green that glints in the eye of a wild bob-cat on heat before it digs its claws into your collar bone. I am talking of the green that would possibly make you do the same thing to Mr. Neighbour when he parked his new Arnage Coupe
in full view of your morning breakfast tea.
I am talking of the most consuming of sins, that sexy little devil called Envy.
I didn’t know envy could be spelt NV. I just thought most of the Yuppies in my colony driving cars beyond their means (but well within their dads’) were proclaiming allegiance to some new sign for victory, or a university, or Che, or a cricket team.
(Wait-a-minute, they didn’t have IPL when you were young Magan! True, I am just trying to feel young; let me.)
Such abbreviation was lost on me. Mind you these were the pre-West Coast Hip-Hop movement days, well before every nonsensical Hindi serial added multiple letters to be balanced albeit perpetual phonetic aberrations.
So much envy in this world, I wonder if we could tap it and use it to power the refrigerator; or the water heater; whichever works. You see, the thing started the TV show with much inspiration, some justified pre-emptive consternation, and bright-eyed aspiration.
Add to that tank-loads of perspiration, it was unbearably hot in Turkey!
Our idea was to do a good TV show and you are the best judge as to how far we have reached our target; make that ‘how closely’. We intended to cover local eating habits, cultures and customs, dishes and delicacies, no matter where they were to be found.
Ours was not a tawdry trick to dine in the most expensive, coveted of restaurants. Sure it helped what with reservations backed up for months and us being last-minute arrivals but that was not the essence of our exercise.
We were trying to find veritable and authoritative sources, be it the Scottish kitchens of Tony Singh or the cooking school at Swinton Park.
But somehow people have been dazzled by the interiors of the restaurants I have been filmed in. I mean, it’s either that or my exuberant personality only further enhanced by my shiny wavy hair.
Viewers have fooled themselves into believing that mine is an endeavour of hedonism, to scavenge and comb through every fine-dining West of the Middle. Oh, how mistaken are ye, all of little faith…
And this reductive environment is ideal breeding ground for the green monster. On an average I get three people tell me everyday how they love my show, watch it regularly and then how they are jealous of all the good food I eat.
A usual follow-up is if I require an assistant. I politely ask most to get their legs waxed and get in line. Women too.
While this may sound like an ungrateful rant, it is anything but; I love being told that my show is watched and liked. It is the best thing to hear. Comparatively, I feel way less exquisite after a milk and honey bath.
But nonetheless, even as they praise me with garlands, they sacrifice me at the altar of ignorance – the new proclaimed Hannibal of haute-cuisine.
I am reminded of the king who wanted the best clothes in the kingdom and the people told him he was actually prancing about in the buff. While I am not in a position as sensitive as skivvies, I do feel the urge to clarify that I am just a guy doing his job.
To help put in context, let me elucidate an average shoot day. Early morning, I do not eat brekkie with the rest of the crew as I may have to eat later.
In fact, I rarely eat with the crew. They starve for days on end while I put away food for an extended and breeding family of human-sized rabbits.
I rarely eat with anyone. I can’t remember when last I had a normal meal with dim lighting and company that sat across me and talked back in words more than, “Roll”, “Cue”, and “Cut!”
I think it would be safe to say that I eat more food in one day than my crew put together. I eat two lunches, which may not be too far spaced in time. They are multiple courses. If, we chance upon some nice little snack along our way, we stop and shoot. I, of course, re-eat.
Most such stops are followed by pre-fixed stops, like, say, a dinner, or two. Fact: Food makes you fat. Combined with alcohol it makes you swell like a human zeppelin. If I keep growing fat and can’t tour any more I may turn magician.
My biggest trick would be to make monumental amounts of food disappear. Like say a Great Wall build of Crispy Peking Duck. Or perhaps, eat a restaurant all the way to bankruptcy and make that disappear!
I am planning on buying shares of Danone Actimel and natural Yoghurt division, not to mention Pudin Hara and Zintac! Nothing else that has happened since Renaissance could make their stock accelerate faster.
So, that is my life; envious still? It ain’t about fancy restaurants. It is about food, about authentic and good food from places sinister and not so sinister, and how far a true gourmand would go to find it all.
It would help if I could actually walk to it. But, for now, I drive to them and tuck in. I am driving my crew to killing for food, driving myself mad with problems of weight-gain and let me assure you that there is nothing as weight-gain in the right places, weight is not that smart.
But most concernedly, I am driving people to envy me because I eat and drink. To be loved because you arouse envy albeit a nice friendly envy – what a delectable dilemma I harbour. Not too keen that waxing appointment now are ya’!?
But I love my life and I love people envying me, in that nice way they do. Keep on doing it and telling me about it whenever you see me; it makes the extra kilos weigh lesser on my conscience.
Which brings us to the unrelated question: As with my receding and thinning hairline, where do I stop using shampoo and start using face wash?
The most ridiculous inherent contradiction that was ever uttered by any sane (or at least under influence) human being was along the lines of this: In my humble opinion…
An opinion can’t be humble…just like an elephant can’t fit in the backseat of a Tata Nano, not even if he folds his legs. An opinion is your take on the world or the things in it, how then can it be humble. Sure it can be presented with humility but that too has the paradoxical putridity of how humble can a 100-carat diamond present be…
In short, opinions are sharp, big and defined…they may need refinement and could even lack precision but a good one should be as friendly as a nuclear missile. That’s how you tell a good opinion.
Sure you invite the tag opinionated but that’s not all a bad thing – you get used to living alone eventually.
My show has always been about an opinion. If you notice, the camera never goes off between the time the dish is brought and I take my first bite and comment. It is perhaps the only thing that manages to intrigue on the show.
Else, I have been accused of killing food twice – once when it is being prepared and once when I dead-pan comment on it. I could use more emotion I am told but, in my defence, I am not allowed to drink on the job. Waitaminute…aargh!!!
Back to the point, the intrigue of the show hangs on what comes out of my mouth once I bite into something – the intrigue of the immediate. Not what I will blurt post three bites, two takes and five make-up jobs later (although there are none, can’t you tell!?).
The idea was always to play on spontaneity and speedy suspense. Now I am opinionated. I am as opinionated as any Indian who likes his political drama interspersed with a few innings of cricket. I have a take on everything – from movies to the people who go to watch them, from food to drink to lack of them – I am so opinionated that I find myself judging my own self and I find it hard to be living with me all the time.
Trouble is, in spite of my opinions I hardly seem to improve…Thing is, like all of us, I have a vision of life, the world and everything in-between and when things appear different, it sparks an opinion. The chicken-egg here is how did I come to have that opinion in the first place?
Well, I sure wasn’t born with it, it evolved. Through my experiences and exposures, it came to be. And it is never complete, it is always evolving. And it is so for all of us, opinion grows and matures even when we refuse to.
So, if you ever have an opinion, splash it. The caveat is, bring it when you are asked for it: Free anything is worth what you pay for it, a free lunch costs even more. Through my blogs, I invite and solicit opinion.
I like to be told how I am faring, how I can improve. It is my way of bouncing a hundred tiny graphite balls off my blank canvas and hoping a meaningful sketch evolves from it. Usually, it does.
Recently someone left a comment on my previous blog, “Of Crime and…” and it made me think. I like my meat au bleu and unknowingly I seem to have pushed it upon others.
The idea wasn’t as much to thrust as to let people know what I feel and it could be the popular accepted opinion in certain parts of the world. But, I guess, in my zeal to outlaw over-cooked meats, I think I have irked a few.
In my defence, first, the science – the more you cook meat, the more the proteins coagulate, the juices escape and the meat becomes chewier, tougher. It is incorrect to think that raw meat is chewier.
My life is not exactly a tale to recount to grandchildren by the fireplace: the biggest thing I have done yet is to dream. More lately I have dreamt of amassing wealth beyond the dreams of avarice or at least my boastful circle of acquaintances and that fantasising in itself has kept me Prozac-like happy in my shell.
I don’t know whatever exactly happened to dreams of being a pilot and a fireman? Nobody really wants to be a money-making machine as a kid; oh no, our dreams are way more colourful as children.
But I do recall having an adolescent dream that involved food and experimentation. And that is perhaps what mostly has fuelled my quest for gastronomy and is responsible for my undying temptations to try and tackle the un-tasted, not to mention my expanding girth and ever-widening shadow.
Food is a satisfying pursuit: It refreshes, rejuvenates and relaxes. If you manage to eat the right kind, it also nourishes. Wine is something that makes food whole, that gives food meaning, form and definition.
Without wine, food is rather lacking in dimension and depth. If you wanted visuals it would be much like that scene from Jerry McGuire when Tom Cruise goes back to reclaim his relationship.
You can almost imagine a luscious lamb chop telling a muscled magnum of a Bordeaux, “Shut up, you had me at hello…” Yes, I need to get out more.
So, to add to my initial thought, the biggest thing I have done so far is to dream, and eat and drink.
I have had food brought to life (PETA
, please excuse the sad and incidental pun) at the hands of some of the best names in the culinary world, I have tasted wines and whiskies and beers made in remote corners of the planet by people who just don’t care about Louis Vuitton
or the people who flaunt them and then I have seen things that always bring a smile to my face whenever my entire life flashes before my eyes.
That last one is not always good because it means that I have effectively smiled through earthquakes and minefields.
But, put like that, it doesn’t sound like much of a waste of a life, even though it might sound like one food-rich and alcohol-soaked “wasted” life.
I can live with that. My grand-children may not enjoy the stories as much but just narrating them would rekindle the tastes that I would have enjoyed and they would perhaps still make me drool.
To recount and reminisce about all someone could do and did do for a one square meal, five times a day!
Maybe I could tell them then how I always consider my greatest failure to be my inability to have found someone smarter than me. I may begin to sound batty then but don’t I already? And better yet, I could always claim senility as an excuse then.
But I am not done yet. My fork and knife are far from placed in that parallel position that symbolises the end of a meal.
Other people live their lives like the chapters of a book; mine would be more akin to the various courses of a meal. And I am far from dishing up mains.
So enjoy the starters while you ponder me this, “Are manners and etiquettes free-flow natural form for humans or just an attempt at moralistic suppression of our primal instincts?”
When Indians settled down in the UK in the late 50s, they unknowingly ended up planting something in their adopted land that was far stronger than their rich culture – a taste for richer spices. For a long time Indian food in the UK was synonymous with pub grub and after-dinner binge eating with chilli-slapped food that could burn a hole through space-age metal. Today, a lot has changed. Indian chefs who migrated Westwards, tired of the dichotomy that existed here between Indian and foreign cuisines served here in India have now come into their own and Read more
Sweet Sweet Yummy Yummy Toddy!
A clear light white drink; harvested early morning by slashing the bark of palm trees and collecting the sap overnight. The aromas are intriguing yet inviting. Soft and a bit reminiscent of fermenting coconut water (maybe because it isn’t too far from it). A little meaty too with lots of green bark character.
The taste is distinct and perhaps not the most given although it does grow on you and a couple of glasses later, you would be forgiven for thinking of it as weird cider. It is mostly semi-sweet at this point, with a hint of prickle on the tongue, somewhat nutty (although i don’t know if Date Palm Toddy would too exhibit this note; what i am trying is Coconut Palm Toddy.) and shows some nice lactic creaminess. The finish is definitely cider-like but minus all or any finesse whatsoever.
You know you have become a wine sissy when you refer to a series of tastings as an adventure. You then sadly realise that you will never be able to brave the outback alone or accompanied and a vineyard will be all the wilderness your faint heart can manage.
Pity, but on the flipside, you get to taste some fantastic wines. Here is a rant oops I mean list of some things I recently got to nose and tongue. Wherever there are breaks the grape variety or wine style may be changing. The key is:
PB – Pinot Blanc, SB – Sauvignon Blanc, PG – Pinot Grigio, WB – WeissBurgunder aka PB, GB – GraueBurgunder aka PG, RS – Residual Sugar
One more thing; an asterisk (*) denotes a personal favourite. Honestly, few wines were bad and turn-away-able. The brands mentioned here pretty much epitomise the highest echelons of winemaking in the (Southern) Styrian region or Austria. Read more
I had heard a lot about this marvellous clinically clean city around the continental corner and, as a good traveller looking for value-for-his-and-his-neighbours’-money, I logged on to a million sites to gather all I could about thing to do while there. I found a lot of information, much of which was put out as lists which mostly stated “10 things to do in Singapore”. I read so many ratings that it almost felt competitive to decide what to visit and what to leave out. Singapore is very impressive, don’t get me wrong but I was very confuddled how to put forth this plethora of information without creating further confusion in your already-softened minds. Hope this helps… Read more
Spain was a beautiful visit…so much to learn, more to unlearn, and so much forgotten already! I would love to put the blame on that lovely ham, that ode of culinary class – the famed Pata Negra (black footed or more correctly, hoofed).
I was in the region of Castilla LaMancha followed by a few days in Madrid and I can see why it would be considered the precursor to Ibiza but that is not what this post is about. (Mail me for more dope on that!) Meanwhile, here are a few things I tasted and am sharing. Read more
The human species is possibly the best standing example of that eternal cycle of life and death. Nothing else showcases this chronological phenomenon better; well, nothing except nightclubs. They have a similar cycle but it moves much faster – like those fast forwarded clips they often show on Nature channels where the sun rises and sets in a matter of seconds (Time Lapse shots – for those who know and should now know that I too know).
I am not a celebrity so I can’t say that I am reporting first hand; more like an acquaintance of a friend who attended told me: but in this age of information and technology, such data can be treated as first-hand information, right? Or have I been inside my office far too long?
Say what you may, you can’t miss the splash on the pages. The prime minister shakes an opportune hand with the US and gets a massive cold; someone operated and saved the oldest Siamese twins, disjoint only on their political views…All humbug! A new night spot just opened and briefly seen were two actresses from upcoming films with lots of nudity (in the film that is) in hunky male company (at the club that is) – Carry on tabloid, we are all tuned in and listening… Read more