Monday, April 19, 2010

Food Gazing

Dear Rushina,

You know those annoying people in restaurants who always keep glancing at your table to see what you’re eating? I’m one of them. When it comes to eating out, especially at restaurants which are new or you don’t visit often, checking out other tables is a great way to figure out what’s good and what the dishes look like. If you do it enough (like me), you realise how territorial some people are about their food. Elbows suddenly prop themselves on the table, screening delectable dishes from your gaze. Some even start draping themselves over their food, “My clothes and posture be damned! No one can look at the food I’m eating”. It’s no wonder that eating and sex are often equated, most people prefer do both without strangers watching.
But then there are those rare times when your roving eye meets a sympathetic diner. They let you look, they even lean back and sometimes, you feel comfortable enough to start a conversation (albeit across the restaurant, and in my case, usually in my broken Hindi). Mumbai in that sense, (no offense) is full of shameless foodies who recognise a kindred spirit. And they’ve been very helpful in my recent forays into vegetarian (pipe organ sounds) restaurants in Chembur.
My friend Divya, also a professed carnivore (‘but no dogs’, she said to her Naga friend), introduced me to cheese sada dosas at Ganesh Sagar, opposite Maitri Park. And thus began my journey into that dark labyrinth that is vegetarian cuisine. Around my third visit to Ganesh Sagar, as I was eating my cheese sada dosa, my eyes began to wander, elbows went up and bodies were draped. Then finally, on my fifth visit, desperate to order something new, I craned my neck and looked around. A kind woman on the other end of the restaurant saw me, leaned back and showed me her food. That’s how I now have another favourite order at Ganesh Sagar – Cheese paratha and bhendi masala.
My friend Sheila tells me she’s not a foodie. Thankfully, she does get hungry quite often which works very well for me. We were over at Martin’s, the small cubicle of a Goan restaurant in Colaba over the weekend. Sure enough, as we began to order, my gaze drifted to the other table where a woman was passionately relishing her pork vindaloo and clearly didn’t mind that I was watching. Her partner was delicately picking at sausages. As we’d already ordered beef chilly fry (YUM!), we decided we’d have sausages ‘just like the ones the gentleman over there’ was having (we pointed discretely).
But sometimes, you get it wrong. The food you point at, isn’t the one that turns up on your table. Like yesterday at Subhalaxmi, another vegetarian restaurant walking distance from TISS. As we walked across the main dining area into the AC section, I spied a man digging to yummy looking angry red noodles. With Indian Chinese cuisine, that usually means ‘Szechwan noodles’. So we ordered some and instead got a tamer looking version (quite good nevertheless).
This has got me thinking though, is only looking enough? Or is it time for us to walk over and start a conversation?


P.S. Given my topic, I clearly couldn’t get any photos to accompany my post today. I don’t think the restaurants or their patrons would have taken to it kindly.


The knife said...

Hi Theyie, just wanted to say that I quite enjoy reading your posts. May the tribe of rude epople who stare dishes and photograph them grow.

Next time you are at Martins try the beef steak and onion fry

theyie k said...

@The Knife - Thanks for the suggestion, can't wait to try it now:)

sneha said...

ha ha
I get quite embarrassed when my friends ask the waiter what our neighbours are eating. We were surprised once when the neighbours sent over what we were inquiring after for a taste to our table!!

theyie k said...

@Sneha! haha! that's actually a great idea (to send the food over). If only all fellow eaters were that generous:)