I appear to have made an unconscious decision to sear a hole through my gastrointestinal tract. Or so it seems when I think of Calcutta and my favorite meals. I don’t want to offend, but I’ve never been a fish favorer, and though Bengali cooking is pleasant enough, it doesn’t hold a candle to Andhra’s repertoire of dishes, particularly when it comes to spicy intensity. I long ago killed my taste buds and chances of recognizing subtle hints of thyme in a chicken breast, or that twig of rosemary in lamb, and I’ll thus forever be a fan of big flavors. So in no particular order, some of my regular, perhaps dull fare. Note: I get plenty of dal makhni, luchis, aloo dum, and mishti at work functions, so please don’t scream “You’re missing out on Indian food you dumb-ass FSOwalla!
At Bombay Shiv Sagar it’s a portion of chilli fried potatoes (dry, never in gravy) followed by an onion chilli cheese dosa. All washed down with a fresh lime soda — salted, not sweet. Price: 193 rupees.
Less frequently, because of walking distance, I savor the Malaysian set meal with chicken at Ar-Han Thai, located in the Burp! food court at the Forum Mall. The noodles are a style of Asian linguine, flat with a fiery complement of chicken, garlic, green peppers, chilli peppers, and onions swished in a wok. Price: 156 rupees with can of Diet Pepsi.
On lazy days — and there are many in Calcutta — pizza is an easy option. I alternate between healthier, thin-crusted concoctions like the Fire of Bengal pizza (ground mutton, coriander, finger-long chilli peppers with caramelized onions added) at Fire & Ice, an Italian-owned export from Kathmandu (380 rupees), and Pizza Hut’s Chinese Chilli Chicken pan pizza (320 rupees, 50 paisa Mr. FSOwalla. You’re order will be delivered in approximately half an hour.)
You can look at this self-inflictedcreated menu in a couple of ways. Obviously this diet would kill me (if it isn’t already) were I to maintain it into perpetuity. Fine. Agreed. But it’s also true that these are dishes that most likely I will never eat again unless I make a return trip to Calcutta. Collecting otherwise unavailable in your hometown culinary favorites is certainly a benefit to living overseas, and it takes on a form of routine-building, providing a temporary sense of stability. Comfort food that burns itself into memory as well as my stomach.