This post comes in the wake of a chip-and-cheeseball-eating orgy. I blame my stress levels and the fact that I feel unloved and unhappy. Nothing helps- not videos of furry baby animals trying to walk, not videos of tiny children lisping pop hits. Not even a clip of Amy Poehler’s great interview with Conan. And not even Dilbert, who I love. There’s just so much deep blue and I’m drowning in it. But before you see the last of me, I’d like to share some weird but wonderful comfort food ideas that have seen me through the doldrums. These are unlikely combinations, and they’re proudly lowbrow. I will not have you hunting for unicorn tears, cheeses aged with the sweat of ancient Olympians and suchlike. Everything here is available at your friendly neighbourhood grocer’s. Here we go:
1. Ras Bhari + Hershey’s Kisses
The flavourful ras bhari (or Cape Gooseberry, for Ladies Who Lunch) makes a feisty ally for the Hershey’s Kiss. The sweetness of the chocolate evens out the spiky sourness of the fruit, and leaves your mouth feeling confused and delighted. To be eaten in the ratio 1:1. Best served as dessert, or as finger food for unexpected guests.
2. Apple Slices + Peanut Butter
I filched this right off Emily of Cupcakes & Cashmere. Emily is impossibly perfect, right down to her toenails, and despite the delicious desserts she churns out post after post, I find it hard to believe that she eats any. She looks like a salad person, the sort that fuels up on rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes and has yoghurt shots for dinner. I do not trust salad people. No one should be fuelling up purely on chlorophyll unless they intend to photosynthesize, or they’re a cow. But I still like Emily. Everything on her blog is bathed in a peachfuzzy, Instagrammy glow, and looking at all the prettiness makes me happy. As does one of her favourite snacks, slices of crisp apple smeared thinly with peanut butter. The apple is sweet, the butter’s nutty and salty, and your mouth has just orgasmed.
Best eaten when weak-kneed at the prospect of opening that obscenely large packet of chips calling out to you from the larder. Satisfies your craving for junk nicely, and still leaves you feeling you made the healthy choice. What’s not to love?
3. American Grapes + Cheese Cubes
Cheese and grapes are a no-brainer, but this isn’t expensive, stinky cheese that screams ‘I’m a gentlewoman! Please tell me who your milliner is, so I can decide whether to be friends with you!’. No. This is the no frills, too-salty, cheerfully waxy cheese that makes for an excellent mousetrap. So it is the scum of all cheeses, and it is delicious. The grapes are big, red and bulbous and have seeds, and your sabziwallah is likely to call them American. I do not know if they are American, but I do know that they are fabulous and melt in your mouth.
Best nibbled at alternately. Unwrap a cube, take a tiny bite, bite off half a grape. The grapeseed makes for a sudden nutty interjection and elevates the whole experience. Close your eyes. You are Lady <insert fancy Victorian name>, and this is heaven, provenance be damned.
4. Buttered Bread + Daal Moth
My childhood was spent pedalling away in the gullies of Mathura, dodging sleepy cattle and errant rickshaw wallahs. Mathura is a mishmash of every lovely Indian stereotype you can think of- women giggling from behind a pallu, markets bustling, oil hissing in a mithaiwallah’s kadhai, dyed dupattas fluttering in the breeze, khoya being rolled and slapped into beautiful little shapes, scooters and bicycles scraping the shins of pedestrians as they make their way to a mandir, bells tolling in the distance, bhajan playing on a loudspeaker, gunny sacks spilling flour and spices into the street. To this day, all it takes to transport me back to Mathura is my hand diving into a jute sack full of rice, or lentils, and I’m twelve again, standing with my mother at a busy intersection in Holi Gate, hoping that the trip will end with a buttery, flaky cream roll.
This dance of buttered white bread with daal moth originates in my classmate’s lunch box. She was a good friend and her tiffin was just daal moth sandwiched between two slices of buttered bread, made soft and melty by lunchtime, thanks to the heat. My ravenous twelve year old self could scarf down many such sandwiches, and I often implored my mother, who preferred other namkeen over daal moth, to buy some for me.
Best had with 4 0’clock tea. Or as a midnight snack.
5. Maggi + Aloo Bhujia
Working at an ad firm is so much fun. For those of you who’ve wondered, yes, Mad Men is real. Having worked with the best, I can tell you that ad firms in India put Madison Avenue to shame. There’s insane, explosive talent and a feral hunger to have your brand lead in a hyper competitive, hyper price-sensitive market. It comes with a lot of pressure, and pressure, as we know all too well, is best offset with wormy yellow noodles that cook suspiciously fast and flood your bloodstream with sodium.
At BBDO, where I worked, the veep was a Maggi fiend and loved having his topped with Haldiram’s Aalu Bhujia, a combination I remember snorting at and then, embracing to my bosom like a long lost relative. Maggi is unbeatable, but Maggi with bhujia is the Alexander of processed foods.
Best had at work, surrounded by gossipy, bitchy colleagues. Best shared with said colleagues. Makes it taste even better.
6. Cheesy yoghurt dip
Necessity is the mother of invention. As is the sudden arrival of the one half of your Unilever batch you’ve been putting off meeting for a month. Because they’re all MBA’s from IIM’s, and all-caps is seldom good news, especially in text messages and emails, but also when written after people’s names. (Sorry, Husband. This is the harsh truth. You had that one chance to be a unicyclist but no, you had to go and get an MD.) This is a joke. Pardon me if it is a bad one.
So, these good folks (who turned out to be very nice people) arrived at our apartment, and we spilled a biggish sack of nachos into a tray, only to realise that there was no salsa, no guacamole. But there was yoghurt, cheese spread, and spring onions in our tiny, noisy apology for a refrigerator. I believe I whipped the yoghurt into a creamy consistency, re-whipped the cheese spread into it, and threw in finely chopped spring onions into the mix, so it was a creamy white thing of beauty speckled with green. It was delicious. And it tango’ed well with the nachos, that disappeared in no time.
Best had when NOT counting calories. Add cheese spread in whatever proportion makes you happy. The garlic variant is the best. Makes for an excellent dip with vegetable sticks. But be warned- it’s either vegetable sticks or my friendship. I will not fraternise with salad people, no sir.