A feast for the senses
Cooking is just not my scene. But if I really am in a good mood, I might make you some special masala tea!
IT IS always a pleasure to dine with people who radiate positive energy, they not only remind you of all the good things happening all around but also strengthen your belief in The Great Almighty for creating everything beautiful. One such person, the well-known Bharatanatyam dancer, Geeta Chandran was at the table at New Delhi's The All American Diner. Instantly, Geeta exclaims: "What a charming place this is! Informal and friendly, encouraging interaction."
Once we start chatting, I realise one can learn so much from Geeta. While enjoying the yummy vegetarian soup with loads of corn, especially prepared by the chef, Ashu Chug, she explains how food can play such an important role in defining culture and traditions of any region. "Just like the performing arts and music define any region or culture, food too is an indicator of every culture's specialities, peculiarities and preferences. Reflecting the geography, climate and agriculture, food is a fantastic art form. In South India, the amazing variety of recipes for rice dishes, for example, could fill an entire encyclopaedia. Every community, every State and region has its own specialities."
From her rich experience of travelling across the world, she has an important observation, "Internationally, France is renowned for its culinary arts, but in my travels I have encountered
passion for food in countries as diverse as Morocco and Romania. Understanding food customs, and respecting the food habits of others is a vital step in understanding the cultures of others."
The dιcor matches authentic Diner memorabilia. Probably one of the most stylised Diners in the world, complete with shiny stainless steel, tile and marble countertop, red leather upholstery, Elvis Presley and Betty Boop wall clocks and Hollywood memorabilia brightening its walls.
Looking at all this, smilingly Geeta, says, "In my dance I insist on the appropriate setting; I do not dance in front of ugly banners or in inappropriate spaces. Similarly, in food too I am extremely fussy about the setting and the ambience. Simple fare served well and with respect for hygiene and aesthetics is much more satisfying than a huge meal served badly."
Geeta loves to try different cuisines. She remembers how she got gypped in Sri Lanka. "I tasted a very spicy vegetable; probing the spice, I learnt that the chilli in it came from Maldivian fish!"
Once you start navigating through the menu at Diner, you are tempted to have everything. And once the food comes, it is in such generous quantities that you wonder how Americans can afford to hold so much. Geeta loves the hot garlic bread and yummy salad served with it. Options in menu are wonderful but the best part is the chef knows how to accommodate individual preferences and hence Geeta's meal is just perfect. "For someone like me, the menu options of light vegetarian meal are very gratifying; veggie soup, wholesome salad, steamed veggies, and some sinful pasta! Can I ask for more?"
Dessert? There is most sinfully rich and smooth chocolate mousse filled in a chocolate short crust and served with fresh cream and hot chocolate sauce. Rum `n' Raisin cheese cake is another killer. Then there is a decent collection of wines, beer, cognac, you ask for it and you get it.
Is there a great chef in Geeta? "No, not at all," she replies. "Cooking is just not my scene. Thankfully that's my mother-in-law's department and so I am completely saved from the cooking chore. But occasionally, when my daughter's friends raid the house, I make them hot chillas. If I really am in a good mood, I might make you some special masala tea!"
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