Friday, July 13, 2007

My Experiments with Food

It all started four years ago with my selection in Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. Till then were the days of a Abhinay completely choosy in food, who's mom had to check with the long long list of her son's dislikes before cooking anything. I wonder how my parents tolerated me, I bet if I was in their place my son would have got one tight slap before every meal. Anyways it all changed, in fact drastically, in last four years. Now the person who writes this is complete opposite of the Abhinay, whom I described above. Now I eat all that is edible and too with full enjoyment. Here I tell you the story of this transformation, a changeover which turned this finicky eater into a complete foodie.

This story has two interesting chapters. Chapter-1, where I encounter IIT mess system and Chapter-2, where I use skills developed in IIT mess to survive with European food.

Let's start with chapter-1, First week was the week of excitement, excitement of new place and excitement of reaching the ace institute which was a dream come true.... But.. as this fever diminished and I came face to face with the realities, or rather I should say tongue to food realities, fear filled my heart, fear that I will have to eat the crappy, tasteless food for next five years. So a time when so many professors are trying their best to suck all your blood out, your body doesn't get any food to make new blood.

On a typical day the menu at mess would be- 'kali dal', 'peeli dal', 'kali sabji', 'peeli sabji'; don't ask what is this 'kali' and 'peeli', even after 4yrs I don't know; all i know is that its a yellow mass which is completely tasteless and odourless. But chapattis have a flavour.... they taste like soil. Apart from this usual menu we get 'special' meals three days a week, Then we get rubber like 'nan' (we are trying to get them registered in Guinness book for most stretchable food stuff) or 'bhatures' which will give you a litre oil if you squeeze it. We get those with dust flavoured 'chhole' or 'paneer' which has only chili in the name of spices.

Then a ray of hope appeared in form of the section in the mess where you could get anything fried on request. And it was this Lab where some of the finest food products in IIT Roorkee were engineered. Some of the popular products include Rice fried with butter, Rice fried with eggs, dal fry and egg stuff like half/full fried eggs, french toast, omelet, scrambled egg etc which everybody knows what they are. But some products were really innovative so let me describe a few-

'Paratha Flavoured Roti' - you take a soil flavoured chapatti from mess and fry it in butter for a min or two and then there you are, you have a paratha flavoured roti!!.... Idea for this came up during one of highly productive time of wait in queue for getting the dal fried, when one of my friend suggested that we can try getting chapatti fried, we tried and the experiment was successful. This product is increasingly becoming popular in Govind Mess of IIT-R, which is where we did this experiment. I believe I should get a award for this one, something like 'Innovator of the year in Mess Techniques'.

Then two other products came from a different resource- Sick Diet- which is given to people who are sick and can't digest 'normal' food (who said mess food is normal). Well, usually one should have a prescription from IIT-R hospital that he is sick and should be given a sick diet... But here 'Jugad Technology' comes to the rescue (about that later). Anyways coming back to the food- here we have two options- get two glass of milk with bread or take 'khichdi'. We modified these stuff and came up with following-

'Biryani Flavoured Khichdi' - get the khichdi fried with onions in butter and mix some pickles in it.
'Coffee flavoured milk with fried bread'- get the bread slices fried and mix some coffee in hot milk.

Archaeological evidences suggest that these dishes have been in use for many years and have been modified with the course of time.

Second Chapter Started with my last year's summer project in Germany and continues with this year's summer in France. Usually Indians are use to spicy Indian food and so they find the European food too tasteless, But me no... I love all sort of food now... during last four years at IIT, I forgot what taste is. Either I have lost my taste buds after four years of hard work with my IIT's mess food or my taste buds have got modified such that what ever food they taste my brain will get the signal 'yummy'.

Its not only the taste bud thing, my experimental spirit developed in IIT mess also proved useful. I eat my lunch in 'restaurant universitaire' (fancy name for university mess) where my modified taste buds were working and for dinner I was on my own, which is where my experimental skills proved useful. Please note that I hate cooking mostly because it takes half an hour to prepare the food and then again half an hour to clean the cooking stuff, whereas it takes only 15 min to eat it. So keeping this constrain of less effort I came up with following solutions-

Egg stuff- omelet, fried eggs etc which, 'normal' humans would say, often had a burnt taste but I like to call it burnt flavour eggs, its a unique taste. But unfortunately I had to scrap the idea as it was still taking some effort to clean the frying pan.

my latest invention- 'Hybrid' Sandwich-I don't know exactly what to call them, I put a cheese slice, a meat slice and a layer of hot tomato chicken sauce in between bread slices. eat this with some Indian 'namkeen', tomato ketchup and chilled beer. Its not only tasty but nutritious too and also no effort in making and cleaning. An excellent example of engineering- production with least effort using available resources. (my professors would be so happy)

So those were my experiences with food. Sometimes good, sometimes bad or ugly at others but I enjoyed them.


  1. glad to see u have tasted soil atleast for comparision's sake :P

  2. :-)
    actualy the tongue can distinguish only four tastes- sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, we really "taste" mostly by smell... surely you too would have also 'tasted' much more shitty things than just soil.

  3. Mr. Foodie
    Wen do we get to taste ur 'Hybrid Sandwich' :P

    mast explain kiya hai apne mess food ko..(particularly, the extras..)

  4. @ mohit

    anytime bro... btw I m also planning to sell its recipe to McD ppl :-)

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  6. Majaa aa gayaa yaar(great post)...

    mess ki yaad dila di
    waise I bet you surely, if you taste banglore south indian food; you wil miss IIT-R food.
    But thank god we got a cook now.

    Rohit Jain

  7. haan yaar b'lore food might add another chapter in story of my food experiments

  8. haan yaar b'lore food might add another chapter in story of my food experiments and thnx for the compliments

  9. Awesome of narration is too good :)
    but yaar atleast frying pan to clean kar sakte ho :P