My son usually asks for packaged chips as a treat. An I can't help thinking of how different things were when I was a child. Just about everything we ate came out of the kitchen then, even snacks and chips. Afternoons, when the kitchen was not busy would be dedicated to snack making and we would often come home to delicious aromas of farsans (as snacks are called in Gujarati) being fried or roasted. My favourite days were the ones when potato chips were fried.
Once lunch was out of the way and babies had been put down for their afternoon naps, the ladies of the house, supervised by my grandmother would settle down to an afternoon of chip making, deliciously flavoured with gossip and washed down with hot sweet cups of masalla chai.
Mounds of potatoes would have been washed by the house help and left in readiness. These would be peeled and sliced by hand on a slicing gadget straight into a large container of boiling oil manned by the maharaj or family cook. (In retrospect his stoic silence through all that gossip was admirable!) As the chips got done they would be strained out and deposited on sheets of newspaper spread out next to him. Once cool liberal amounts of salt and chilli powder would be scattered over and everything would be mixed together by hand until each chip was coated.
Now the thing about these chips was that they had substance to them - they weren't the flimsy brittle things we get in shiny packets today. The gadget they were sliced on gave out slices that were 3 times thicker than the commercial chip. These fried into a crisp thick chip that was crisp and hard and yet soft and crunch when bitten and the dousing of salt and chilli powder left your mouth burning - and yet begging for more - and your lips tingling.
A few months ago I tasted Karela chips (no I am not kidding) at a friends home and found them addictive. (Especially with Curd rice). My friend gets them at a store called Hot Chips in Sakinaka and I had been wanting to visit it ever since but it was never convenient and I forgot about it after the baby came. And then fortuitously (or perhaps not for my waistline) I came across Hot Chips while running a few errands right in my proverbial backyard - Powai! Turns out Hot chips is an India wide chain.
Walk into Hot Chips and it's like being in the snack equivalent of a candy store! The are shelves full of chips; potato, tapioca, banana, soya, each in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavours. And not just chips, all sorts of Indian snacks - once the premise of home kitchens and the loving hands of grandmothers and mothers - are available for your delectation. And not only is everything fresh, you could luck out and buy a bag full straight from the pan! And you can buy as little (one lady bought 10 rupees worth) or as much as you like.
I hadn't really thought about chips for a long time and trying to make any at home had never crossed my mind. I mean even if I had the time, I rarely have the inclination to deep fry anything. But I often wished my son had had a chance to experience the variety of snacks of my childhood, instead of the generic packaged stuff he indulges in. The three packets of munchies we picked up today seem to be a good start and hopefully one of these days my son will see through the glamorous packaging and spend the 10 rupees he finagles out of me for his weekly junk food treat on straightforward quality and some amount of choice at a Hot Chips instead of on a packet of generic rubbish!
And me, I am glad for Hot Chips, partly because in an age of production line food and packaged goods it seems to be applying a formula that will perhaps work - filling in a gap that present day moms like me often can't. But mostly I am glad because the aroma of whatever is being freshly fried that assails me when I walk into Hot Chips will give me a chance to recall the happy, carefree days of my childhood when munching through a bowl of chips did not mean counting calories or carbohydrates followed by a guilt trip...