After those cameos of mangoes and coconuts (May 19 and 23), here are some fond memories of peanuts (which are called groundnuts in Indian languages, as also in several European languages). Do meet those hungry monkeys and thirsty sailors again before taking off for Berlin and Bohemia!
(in same order as in text)
Mysore -- City in Karnataka State : see Midsummer Memories Of Mangoes, etc. (May 19).
Rajkot, Saurashtra -- An inland city and a region in Gujarat, a State on the West Coast of India.
Mahatma Gandhi -- Father of the Nation, famous for his severely austere lifestyle.
Cochin -- Major port and harbour in Kerala State : see Cameos Of Coconuts, etc. (May 23).
Paappads -- Crisp, crunchy discs : see Mangoes, etc. (May 18).
East Berlin, Czechoslovakia -- Those were the days before several European nations disintegrated but the two Germanies got united.
Pilsner Urquell -- Call it a sentiment if you like, but I think it's the best beer in the world!
Evening News, New Delhi
30 Nov. 1984
MY son Vijay (11) has a great fascination for peanuts (as I do). Every evening, when the two of us go out a walk, he stops in front of a certain peanut-seller at a bus-stop near my house.
He buys a handful of unshelled, roasted nuts, cracking the shells open and crunching the core nuts as he walks. Of course, I ask for and get my share!
Vijay daily revives many pleasant memories of peanuts in my mind, as do the innumerable peanut-sellers who ply their trade on the streets all over the Capital.
I AM a tiny tot in Mysore, long ago. I go with my parents and sisters to the zoo, and we feed peanuts to the monkeys. The monkeys dexterously snap the shells open and eagerly crunch the nuts, and I watch in fascination.
Perhaps it was this early childhood impression which gave me an everlasting liking for peanuts!
I live in Rajkot for a while, where the peanuts (like the ice-cream) are fabulous. I am convinced that the best peanuts in the world are grown in Saurashtra in Gujarat State, though I haven't seen the whole world. Call it a sentiment if you like, but that's what I honestly think.
And I remember that Mahatma Gandhi had some schooling in Rajkot, and I have an impression that peanuts were part of his staple diet, like orange juice and goat's milk. I am not surprised really, for in my opinion he must have had the best peanuts in the world to give him a lifelong taste in his childhood!
I AM sitting in a bar in Cochin, drinking beer with some Norwegian sailors whose friendship I've picked up on the spot. We crunch toasted paappads and salted peanuts, which go very well with the beer. It's a session to remember!
I am on tour somewhere in India (it could be anywhere on this vast sub-continent), and I am starving because of undue pressures on my time. I miss breakfast, lunch and dinner, and would go to bed terribly hungry, but for the packet of peanuts I always keep in my briefcase. Around midnight I crunch the packet away and go to sleep peacefully.
I am living in London for a long while, and I am missing all the wayside peanut-sellers of the Indian cities, especially those of the Capital. I buy nice-looking cellophane packets full of nicely salted peanuts (sometimes probably processed from nuts exported from India), but they don't taste half as good as the unshelled, freshly-roasted peanuts you can buy at any bus-stop back home in India!
I AM on a short visit to East Berlin , with the outside temperature at freezing point. I feel fed up with the smell of meat and eggs, and my soul cries ut for a nice, homely vegetarian meal.
I buy a packet of what look like large popcorns, at a stall near the railway station. It's called Erdnussflips in German, but is actually imported from Czechoslovakia. I open the packet with some misgivings, but the contents are very familiar and friendly.
They happen to be exploded peanuts which somehow seem to be fried in pure vegetable oil. I have no other way to describe them, and they taste like some dish prepared in a purely vegetarian family in India. An answer to my prayers, certainly!
I buy a dozen packets and go back to my hotel. I sit down in the bar, order the best Czech beer they have (Pilsner Urquell, of course!), and go to work on the marvellous flips.
A Bohemian meal. to be sure, but the best food I've had in several days -- something never to be forgotten!
As I had mentioned in those Delhiberations almost 30 years ago, the groundnut-puffs I crunched in Berlin had looked like large popcorns. As a matter of fact, they had even tasted a bit like popcorns. I didn't know why this was so, but it never occurred to me to find out the actual reason.
After keying in the above text, however, out of sheer curiosity I Googled for relevant information, and I had a remarkable revelation -- that corn flour is the main ingredient of Erdnussflips, though the product is named after groundnuts, which constitute only about 30 per cent of the inputs!
Anyway, this unplanned search has given me some fresh and interesting insights into the whole phenomenon, which I shall share with you in due course!