I finally decided to cook a favourite street food from my hometown, which is full of calories, smells heavenly, but unfortunately, looks disgusting.
The aroma from this slow-simmering dish sends cats around the block into a frenzy and any vegetarian neighbours into very un-neighbourly behaviour, like banging windows shut and loud mutterings of revulsion.
This dish requires simmering for the whole night and has tons of spices and a separate muslin cloth pouch of aromatic herbs and roots and even dried rose flower petals, that has to be dunked into the pot as it cooks.
Since this nourishing soup, called ‘paya’ (my wife calls it ‘goat’s feet’) or trotter’s soup, requires six to eight hours of cooking on a low fire, I brought out the slow cooker I had purchased in Dubai, cleaned it and sat it on the counter top, and immediately, right on cue, the power was off.
Since, luckily, we are living in a community, a generator next to the kids’ park, usually kicks in loudly as soon as our voltage stabiliser starts screaming. With the generator going we get the fans working, the fridge cooling, but no heavy-duty stuff like the tea kettle, the microwave oven or the slow cooker.
Getting ahead of myself
But I am getting ahead of myself. Since the meat delivery guy, who usually brings home neatly packed and precisely-cut tiny squares of mutton with tons of bones, did not have goat’s ‘feet’ on its list, I had to venture out into the coronavirus-infested air and enter a bylane in our neighbourhood market.
The butchers, with bloodstained meat cleavers in their hands, did not wear masks and the butchery had flies swarming everywhere. (The municipal inspectors obviously, had missed this place on their last inspection of the shops).
Whenever I watch horror movies and there is a faint buzzing of flies in the scene, right on cue something horrible happens. I half expected the butcher to pull out the devil’s hooves from behind the counter.
Anyway, back to my kitchen and the ‘paya’ was delicious (even without ‘kulcha’, the leavened flatbread that comes fresh out of an oven all puffed up and has to be dunked into the soup) but it did not look appetising with the hooves floating about in a glutinous mess.
Slurping my soup like a trucker
While I was slurping my soup like a truck driver enjoying his early morning breakfast, I looked up on my phone, other delicious and disgusting foods from other cultures.
I have eaten ‘bush meat’ in Jo’burg, and it came in a huge platter and must have been crocodile, impala, zebra and giraffe meat, at a specialised restaurant, and it looked like any other steak or grilled meat dish and tasted as sweet.
But I have not eaten fish eyes, or a goat’s head or a tongue, which many people say is delicious, nor a live octopus.
I had once seen a documentary and it showed a man preparing a fast-food delicacy at a festival. It was flat bread slathered with jam. The stall cook then puts his hand in a pot and takes out a handful of cockroaches and dumps them on the flat bread and people had to eat it fast or the cockroaches escaped from the sides of their mouth.
Recently, there was a report in a newspaper that from a gated community in Bengaluru, pet dogs allegedly started disappearing. Efforts are on to find out the reason.
I am not sure why no celebrity chef has brought out a recipe book of culturally diverse foods or a TV cooking serial, that many people would surely enjoy watching.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi