Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Improving Foreign Relations With Food Porn

You all may have heard the terrible news about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (I still say Bombay, but that's because I'm contrary).

In an effort to preserve the good standing with the Indian population in my area, I went right to Hot Breads Bakery and Cafe as soon as I heard the news. If I can't use my Food Porn as a bridge across cultures, then I just shouldn't bother.

I entered the cafe with Junior Junior to see the television blaring the bad news. Although some say there's no such thing as bad publicity, I think seeing seeing tourist hotels afire and six other locations seething with hostage situations might keep the average non-Indian far from Indian eating establishments.

Not me, though. Call me a Food Porn Crusader, call me what you will, but I sincerely doubt the always kind and gracious Mr. Patel, who loves to offer me free samples to the point that I'm too full to eat my order, is using my samosa money to fund terrorist activity.

I sat with a sympathetic smile.

"Mumbai is my city," he said with a look of gut-wrenching embarrassment. "That is my city up there." He pointed at the flames billowing from the popular Taj Palace hotel.

"Don't worry, Mr. Patel. There are terrorists everywhere. I know you don't hate us."

"Oh,nononono! I am so very glad to see you and your young son. I cannot believe this. It is too, too terrible." I approached the counter to place an order with his nephew.

"Um, one samosa and I'd like to try your bhuji pav. Oh, and some drinks." I walked over to the cooler and grabbed a Fanta in a bottle for myself and a mango juice box for Jr. Jr.

As I waited for the order, I asked Nephew why they didn't have naan bread, one of my favorites.

"Oh, no tandoori oven," he said. "But we have chaputi. I'll give you one." He brought back what looked like a corn tortilla. I ate some and gave the rest to Jr. Jr. who chowed it happily. Then I eyed up some kind of thing that looked like corn bread covered with black sesame seeds and fresh chilis.

"What is that? That looks awesome."

"That is (have no clue what he said). It's made of chick-pea flour."

"How much is it?"

"$3.15 for a plate."

"Sign me up." I went to retrieve some money and he waved me off.

"No, just taste a little sample."

He gave me a huge portion, and waved off my money again. I slipped him two bucks for his troubles. I love these people.

The bread was soft, moist and consistent. Like cake, but not sweet. The chili was marinated in oil and salt. It was crispy and flaming fucking hot. I could facefuck a pan of that stuff, no problem.

Mr. Patel brought my bhuji pav, which is a delicate stew of mixed vegetables with a dusting of cilantro, with a side of minced red onions and a lime. Two freshly baked Bombay pav rolls came with it and I immediately threw one to Cerberus. I mean, Junior Junior. He didn't like the bhuji, but I loved it. It was like vegetarian sloppy joe in a way, with a pureed vegetable base and high notes of Indian spices. The lime and red onions gave the mellow taste a bright and tangy crunch. The soft bread, buttered and toasted slightly, absorbed the bhuji like a sponge. Fuck, it was so good.

Then the samosas came out. Mr. Patel is trying to buy my loyalty. There were two, when I ordered one. They were grown-man fist sized, not little-lady fist sized. But I was already full. I asked him if he could bag it up, because I was already stuffed. He smiled indulgently and brought me the bag with extra sauces.

"Bye, Mr. Patel. You haven't seen the last of me, I promise," I called out as we left. I spared the television screen one last glance. Flames engulfed the hotel and the scrolling parade of hysteria at the bottom announced 78 dead.

He looked from the screen to my face, anxiety creasing the deep lines around his eyes and mouth. "Good,good, miss. Thank you. Very, very good."

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