Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Cellar door is often claimed to be the most beautiful phrase in English. Geoff Nunberg, in a recent post, set out to explore the reasons for its appeal. Among other reasons, he suggests: “claiming that cellar door is the most beautiful expression of English permits you to make a show of your aesthetic refinement.” It gives the aesthete “an occasion to display a capacity to discern beauty in the names of prosaic things. It’s a classic ploy of connoisseurship.”

Sometimes, when picking my favourite this or that, I settle for an offbeat choice, and then I wonder if it was an honest choice or a ploy of connoisseurship. One such example is my favourite food/beverage served on the Indian Railways.

The Konkan Railway is run by the KRC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, and it has quite a few quirks. But the most charming of them all is their custom of serving a cup of hot milk just before lights-out. The milk is the perfect temperature and has the perfect amount of sugar. And when you’re in a dark compartment speeding along the Konkan coast, sitting next to the window and sipping on a cup of hot milk somehow seems like the perfect thing to do.

In itself, a cup of hot milk would not rank higher in my preference than, say, an egg chop. On the Konkan Railway, the attendant circumstances make it special. But still, hot milk may strike you as a strange choice, and you are free to decide whether this is a ploy of connoisseurship; as I said, I am not sure myself. And I must admit that I have never travelled first class on the Rajdhani Express, and have consequently not tried their legendary roast chicken.

However, there can be no doubt about the worst food/beverage served on the Indian Railways. That honour incontestably goes to the Veg. Biryani.


Priyanka said...

Depends on where the biryani's from, Dhauli has divine veg biryani, also a superlative egg chop.

Also, is this a tribute to sujaan?

The Orange Cat said...

I would go for what they try to pass off as tomato juice.

Abhiroop said...

Ha! Amateurs!

Unless you've tried the aloo gonda, which is served generally in trains going down south, you havent lived.

To quote John Malkovich, it tastes like a blend of a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you're really thirsty....

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

Connoisseurship is itself a pretty word :)My favourite word this week, however, is 'schmaltzy'.

EvolutioN said...

Have always wondered how a Biryani is a Biryani if it does not have mangsho and alu inside it. After Hyderabad, I can excuse not having alu, but no meat! Manolo! Blasphemy I say!


Karthy said...

Ugh...I was reading along all happy it had to do with words and food and then you had to bring up the veg biriyani and then i had to realize it was thursday and there is veg biriyani on thursday and it would probably knock the wind out of the railway one...in a really sad show of 'you think you're worse...wait till you've had...' sigh.

Sroyon said...

@Priyanka: Divine veg. biryani? *looks skeptical*
And why would this be a tribute to Sujaan?

@Orange Cat: Do you mean the tomato soup with rusk? I like that too.

@Abhiroop: Shall I then write about another train incident that happened down south: your, er, encounter near Vizag?

@Shrabasti: I know it's not remotely related, but 'schmaltz' sounds like a frothy drink to me.

@Evo: Purists actually shudder even at the thought of Biryani with alu. And I've even seen Veg Haleem in Hyderabad.

@Karthy: Even worse than the railway one? What are you saying?

Souvik said...

I like all train food.
What am I saying, I like ALL food.

neerajagg said...

throws me back to sipping on that jumpin juice pack on the train.. at least on northern railway. Can you relate to that, sroy?