October 26th, 2005

Join the Masses

Quintessential Cake...and Bread

'If the people dont have bread, let them eat cake'!
Mary Antoinette. That was eons ago...before someone even thought I will exist one day (I dont think many people still know I exist, yet...), but it mentions the two most eaten staples of breakfast and tea-time in India today, and not just France. She may have thought that but natural, but other more un-impulsive, world-wise people would have disagreed. Till today.
For who would have thought that one day that bread (or pav as it is called with different inflections over the country) will be the staple food present in almost every household any time of the year?! Yes, you may blame it on the British and their food habits, which they passed on to their colony, yet it is indisputable that bread is now very much a part of Indian food habit.
When M, V and I used to live in Samrajya, we didnt have any cooking device - not wanting to cook etc - so for the sake of eating something before office, we used to get bread, and butter, till we were sick of it. Then after a gap of a few days we started having Sandwiches from the lari-wallah outside office offering such delicacies as veg sandwich, cheese sandwich (yum!), alu sandwich, dabeli..etc. And on the other side, The Queen of England still swears by her Toast with Tea.
Right from being the standard breakfast in the form of Bread-Butter to the vada-pav and the bread with sabzi/ curry, the Bread is something the Beggar and the Birla's (eg. of rich Indians) share.
A form of staple food which will last for a fairly long time without preservation, it is the ready-to-eat, bland, yet tasty food, freely available. What better than bread for a journey/ picnic? Afterall it is not messy, does not spill, and can be eaten without need of additional accompainments - no pickle, veggies etc required here! The best part is, you can make a complete meal out of two slices (with lots in between of course), and there is no need to heat it!

Now that we have reached picnics, the other favorite to carry around is the Cake. Cake in its different forms. From elaborate pastries to the simple vanilla pound cake, from birthday celebrations to tea time snack, from rum cakes to eggless ones, the cake has now found itself in a niche in the home recipe book. Every house has its own 'best cake recipe', and 'Moms cake'.
When my mom was thinking of coming over, she was sure she will at last get one thing - a cake. For it cooks itself (apart from beating the batter), will last long enough, and is tasty enough to satisfy my pangs for 'home stuff'. When M's mom came over guess what she brought? You guessed right - a box full of home made chocolate cake.
A day or so ago when we had finished dinner, guess what made M and me change from our nightclothes to somethine a little more presentable, and board an auto to the nearest bakery? yes, cake....brownies to be specific. It is not unusual for me to stop on the way back from a movie in the middle of the night to eat/ buy a pastry from a restaurant which makes a small variety, but very well.
As much as the usual Indian cuisine, today amongst the many other things, Bread and Cake have become an integral part of everyday Indian life. Everyone has their favorites amongst the vast variety available, right from flavours, to innovative combinations. Perhaps today India has more confectionaries made based on these basic names than many parts of the world (but that of course is my un-statistical statement). Ive been told that what we call 'Pastry' in India is not found in USA, but is available in UK...though not in as many mind blowing and sumptious varieties. In Gujarat they have taken bread to heart, and forms the basic meal..in the form of vada-pav and pav-bhaji, the trademark of any Gujju. The Shahi-tukda a tasty sweet-dish which seems very much Indian in its origins, if no Mogul, is nothing but toast, tempered out of recognition!
While leaving for somewhere, with lack of time, with hunger pangs, one hand of mine holds the key, and the other either a simple sandwich, else a slice of cake!
When my Mom arrives here tomorrow, it is going to be with a box of her own famous variety of the Sponge cake, I only hope is it plain vanilla...I've been having a craving for one of those for some time now (too much chocolate around)!

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