Thursday, August 5, 2010

Writing About Food

The editorial board of our college magazine used to do restaurant reviews for every issue – a flimsy pretext for going out and gorging at various food joints of the city. When we sat down to write our first restaurant review – about a Chinese restaurant called Eau Chew on Ganesh Chandra Avenue – none of us had any prior experience at writing about food.

It did not take us long to realize that describing food was not as easy as we thought. One by one we shrank away and swore we had not skill at that. And while the rest of us were discovering that we were hopeless at describing food, Anuj made an equally important discovery: that he was bloody good at it. From then on, by unspoken agreement, writing restaurant reviews became his exclusive prerogative.

It is true that Anuj’s grammar often makes me want to claw my eyes out. His deliberate distortions of spelling call to mind the worst excesses of the French Revolution, and his approach to punctuation is completely arbitrary: he omits semi-colons and misplaces apostrophes with gay abandon. But even his harshest critics cannot deny that when it comes to writing about food, the man has few equals.

We have reviewed many eateries in our time. Gradually, the concept of the restaurant review even took more complex forms. For Tea or Coffee, we visited our favourite tea bar and our favourite coffee shop, and pitted them against each other. Sweet Retreat was a city-wide search for that elusive ideal, the perfect sandesh. And Piggy’s Day Out, which featured in our farewell issue, was a day-long five-course meal at five different restaurants: Read on to learn how you too can stop healthy living and be a pig.

For some reason, we never got round to reviewing the divine suta kebab at Adam’s on Phears Lane. This tiny shop tucked away in an obscure alley in North Calcutta makes kebabs with beef so tender that it has to be tied onto the skewer with string, or else it will disintegrate while being roasted.

I have taken many food-lovers to Adam’s, for it is almost impossible to find it without a guide. The first time they taste the kebab is always special. I watch tensely for the change of expression, the blissful smile; I could not be more tense if it were my cooking that was on trial.

Last Friday was Priyanka’s first visit to Adam’s. She took the plate with the reverence which it deserves, inhaled, and put the first spoonful into her mouth. And she said: “Mm. It tastes like beef-flavoured butter.” And my first thought was: this is a phrase that Anuj would have been proud of.

6 comments:

Kaushik Krishnan said...

I miss Adams. I won't have it again for a long time... ...

Ravis said...

Born to parents who are prejudiced against food in the abstract, I've hardly ever eaten at a restaurant. This post, like most of your other posts, fills me with a sense of bereavement for all that I've missed in life.

Sroyon said...

@Kaushik: Me neither. :(

@Raktima: There is ample time to make amends.

Priyanka said...

I'd forgotten I said that :)

juna said...

theres' nothing rong with either my grammar or my spellings.

and yes, I would have been proud of it.

goddamit.

Priyanka said...

Edit: It was my second visit. But keeping your About Me in mind, I'm ready to forgive.