How good must a meal be if you still remember it longingly over 33 years later? Very good? Well, this was certainly the case for one of the best meals I have had in my life so far.
When we think of memorable meals, many a times we tend to think of Michelin starred restaurants, glamour, celebrity chefs, etc. But this one was none of those sorts. It was a plain, simple meal, but one that me and my family still remember fondly!
The trigger for this post was my dad asking me if I remembered this particular meal we had. I responded immediately, “Of course” and remarked to my wife that Dad was referring to the meal that I often mention as the best meal I have had.
Before we get to the meal proper, let me outline the setting. It was autumn of 1987 (I remember the year because that was the year that India hosted the Cricket World Cup for the first time). We were on a trip to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley. Our trip had started a few days earlier when we left Mumbai by, I think, the August Kranti express to reach Delhi. After a few days of sight-seeing in Delhi, we took the overnight train to Jammu and immediately took a cab for the drive to Srinagar.
The drive itself was incredibly scenic. It was the first time that I was seeing Alpine scenery and the scene at every curve was simply mesmerising. After a while, it was time for lunch. And the driver of the cab stopped in front of this nondescript wooden cabin on the side of the road. The back of the cabin overlooked a valley with a stream flowing swiftly below. The setting was beautiful, more than making up for the otherwise plain interiors of the place. But all of that was forgotten as soon as I had my first bite of the food. I don’t think I had ever eaten anything with as much relish as I had that meal, before and after.
I know I have not mentioned anything yet of the meal. What was it, you ask? Well, let me not keep you in surprise any longer. It was….. the humble Rajma chawal (rice with kidney bean curry). Served with a healthy dollop of ghee, each and every bite of that Rajma chawal was heavenly. Forget Rajma chawal, that meal set the standard for every subsequent meal I have had, and nothing so far has beaten that for the pure emotions and memories it generated.
I was only 12 when I had that meal, so maybe I was a bit impressionable. But hearing my father also speak about it so many years later only reinforced what a superlative meal it actually was. I do not remember much more of that particular journey or the meal, but my dad mentioned that he had been asking the driver for a suitable halt for lunch for some time before we reached this place, but the driver kept insisting that we wait till we reach this place. Boy, am I glad that we listened to him!
I do not recollect the name of the place we halted at. Curiosity prompted me to do a search online. And the internet pointed me to a place called Peerah which is very famous for its Rajma chawal. Maybe this is where we had the meal…