The Journey to the Passion called Food…
Evoking memories of another passionate foodie.
It’s funny all the good that have come out of the lockdown for me… For one, I’ve become more appreciative of the amount of work my wife does around the house – looking after me and the kids and continuing with a job. I don’t know how she does it but I’m glad to have the one-man army by my side. For another, I’ve realized how fleeting and unpredictable life can be. So, with that in mind I decided to connect with my childhood buddies before it’s too late… And, in doing so I’ve found my childhood partner in crime, a fellow Chelsea supporter and most of all, a roadie foodie much like myself. When I think of it, I realised that it’s not just food that connects us, but also the journey through which life has taken us – from our school days to date.
I’m talking about my childhood buddy, Derek J Wheeler. Reminiscing about the past made me realize how similar our lives turned out to be. We’ve experienced similar triumphs and tribulations. Also, he’s a thoroughbred Anglo Indian and on the other I was embedded into the Anglo culture through my schooling, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. They influenced my life, music, food and everything I fancy today. Derek, who we affectionally call DJ, is a school buddy – we went to St. Georges Homes, Ketti, I joined in 1983 and Derek in 1985. At the school we grew up always competing and fighting to win. We have now known each other for over 30 years.
DJ was a shy little guy who could run like the wind, very mischievous but playful. Our friendship started on the sports ground where both were champions of the ‘Jungle Olympics’ (a kind of Olympics down the forest where we made tree houses, played ‘Bang! Bang, and did hurdles over many a small shrubs). Besides sports, our common love to feed our ever-empty stomachs, pretty much joined us at the hip. And it didn’t help that we were always hungry… We broke into many tuck boxes that didn’t belong to either of us and ate anything we could lay our hands on.
Our prowess on the sports field and the brotherhood when we played on the school team helped us beat many schools in the Nilgiris in our heydays’, as Derek fondly shared, “We did have a few good tussles during that decade and though it sometimes spilled over from the playing field, it wasn’t anything serious. Just boys being boys.” But what really clicked in this friendship was the need for additional nourishment.
For those of a boarding school background will know that food at a boarding school is not always good or tasty or sufficient. While the school dining room was fine, for growing kids its just not enough. However, this changed when a Mr Raymond Brass turned up and overhauled the food we ate, we athletes were treated to Malabar Parotta, Beef Curry and Boiled eggs, Mr Brass took great care of us, and as Derek and me would know, we often went over to the Brass’ to mope up extra food to feed our hungry stomachs – another thing that sealed our friendship.
What I remember most fondly were the many experiments and adventures we would embark upon to feed our hungry stomachs. There was no dearth of raw materials if you knew where to look. The problem was what were we going to do with it? How would we use the raw material that was abundantly available around the school? There were “spud” or potato fields, carrots aplenty, people raised chickens around our dormitory. So, with all this produce, it always came down to planning. First, a run into the fields by one team for veggies and by another for the chickens, after which, I would have to do the rest… My passion for cooking was well know even back in the school days. So, while the team of gatherers always did a good job, it was left to me to create a scrumptious meal for all of us. With DJ by my side this was never a problem. We always aced it. No matter what the raw materials, we always aced it.
My foodie adventure began at a very young age, with friends like DJ, Hilton, Cliffy, and many others, where I was in charge of cooking and feeding. So, we would go down the banks, dig up a Burmese Stove (basically dig into the mountain and make a small stove), then line the top with a squashed tuna tin, and use a biscuit tin to cook our raid for the day. The rest of the gang would organise the spuds and the coconut oil for cooking., the barks for burning, et al. Most days we ate Potato chips but on the odd days when we mustered the courage, we would have roast chicken. Yes, we would help ourselves to the Hindi Masters chickens and season it with some spice, which we would organise from the cooks in the dining room, then spit roast it. This was what made me want to be a chef and Derek a foodie, he must have had enough of my cooking back in the days that he is still searching for alternatives for good food.
Then, life happened and we kind of disconnected. While, we weren’t really in touch, I followed him on social media and kept wondering, what made Derek the Roadie Foodie? I’d see his many posts on food and wonder where did this friend of mine get such a madness for food, and good food at that! And then I learned that through his career as a Public Relations officer, he managed several restaurants, chefs and food start-ups. He worked with the renowned chefs like Michael Swamy from Mumbai, Vikas Khanna and the famous Master Chef Australia team. Through which he developed a close association with Master Chef Gary Mehigan. This certainly fuelled his foodie engine and explained his love for gourmet food and his social media pictures.
Our Childhood was a great one, it laid the foundation for the men we have grown up to become. This unfortunate lockdown has allowed me to take a break from the rat race I was entangled with. It has given me the opportunity to catch up with old friends and making new ones. Yeah… I’m actually opening up to more people than I would earlier. You see, I live away from my birth country and I realize the importance of having friends close to me. So, I’m making new friends, fostering new relationships and enjoying every moment of it. Like I said earlier, the lockdown has helped me understand and appreciate life, my family and friends and I can’t describe to you the joy and satisfaction it has bought us. I hope you too have made the best of our enforced quarantine. If not, give it a try. Call on the family and friends and you will experience great peace and a new appreciation for life. And, don’t forget the food.
So, here’s to good food and good friends! Cheers. Till we meet again on my next adventure on a journey to a passion called food.