Much more to breakfast platter : The Tribune India


Much more to breakfast platter

The once simple fare is blurring boundaries with a variety of cuisines adorning the table

Much more to breakfast platter

Rahul Verma

Every morning, soon after my first cup of tea, I look for answers to a profound question: what’s for breakfast? Once, it was a simple question, with a three-word answer — bread and eggs. Earlier still, when I was growing up in a small village in western Uttar Pradesh, the question was never asked, because, come winter, summer, or rain, breakfast consisted of paranthas, with a tall glass of milk.

But, as the singer said, the times, they are a-changin’. Breakfast now offers you an array of regional and international dishes. The thought struck me a few weeks ago on a visit to Dehradun. I went with friends and family to a café called Ama’s, which has a vibrant presence in Delhi, too. I looked at the breakfast fare — French toast, avocado toast, croissants, pancakes with fresh cream and maple syrup and so on — and wondered if I could have a little of everything. I finally went in for my all-time favourite: a masala omelette with a buttered croissant.

Clearly, the concept of breakfast is changing. In parts of India, especially in the East, till very recently, it consisted of dishes that many might associate with lunch. Bengalis, for instance, used to go to work or school and college, after a breakfast of rice and fish curry. In parts of Delhi, especially in the old city, breakfast comprised snacks and sweets bought from vendors who went from shop to shop with their fare on khomchas. The shopkeeper would hail a vendor, have some kachori with aloo, and then burp happily as he waited for customers to arrive.

On Sundays, though, breakfast was usually a leisurely affair. In the North, paranthas with a stuffing of mashed potato, or grated radish, would be rolled out and eaten hot off the tawa, with a blob of white butter. In Odisha, parts of Assam and Bengal, the Sunday morning meal often consisted of fluffy white puris, served with potatoes sautéed with onion seeds and slit green chillies. In the South, you’d get the whiff of coffee brewing, and rice and dal, soaked over long hours, being ground for dosas, idlis and medu vadas. Or, if you were lucky, you'd have an appam with stew.

The boundaries have blurred. Now, you can get all this, and more, in most cities. Restaurants and cafés serve a vast variety of breakfast cuisines. People these days often set up meetings at breakfast time, and dig into their eggs — Benedict or Nagaland’s fried egg cutlets or western India's sabudana vada while they discuss holidays or business. I talked of holidays, too, over a recent morning meal of soft idlis served with various kinds of chutneys — coconut, onion-tomato, and coriander-chillies — at Carnatic Café, and thought it was one of the best meals I’d had in a long time.

But there is nothing quite like a breakfast-walk down Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. This used to be a favourite pastime of mine once. I would walk down to Chawri Bazaar, stopping first at Ashok Chaat Bhandar for a plate of bhalla-papri, topped with curd and sweet and sour chutneys. Then, I went to Jain Sa’ab’s in Raghuganj for a fruit sandwich, prepared with guavas, apples or bananas. I would end the morning with bedmi sabzi and nagori halwa — little flour discs to which you added dollops of halwa. Or, on some days, I’d go to the Jama Masjid area, and have nihari — a hearty meaty broth — or paya, a soupy dish of trotters.

Life is easier now for you can order a lot of this online. I have snacked on bedmi sabzi delivered from well-known and little-known eateries, and enjoyed every morsel of it. A chain called Annakoot has droolworthy breakfast dishes such as mattar kulchey, chholey bhaturey and pav bhaji. And you can order luchi and dum aloo, or radhabollobhi — luchis with a lentil paste — from the many Bengali eateries that dot the city. On a rainy day last week, a relative told us how he’d just devoured luchis sourced from Chittaranjan Park with a potato dish, and finished the last of the puris with some sugar. I didn’t complain, for I’d enjoyed my poha, another favourite breakfast dish, that very morning. I often buy what’s known as Indori poha from a man standing with a large pan perched atop a little cart in east Delhi.

Of course, it must be admitted that breakfast is going out of our lives, too. Many young folks, who are up till late at night with their gadgets, leave for work or college with an energy bar and pick up a latte on their way. Or, by the time they get up, it’s often lunch time.

But there are many, like me, who give breakfast the honour it deserves. My favourite resort in Goa does so — it serves breakfast through the day. The last time I was there, the chef was singing ‘Summer time’, while the aroma of food wafted in. I forked out a piece of my masala omelette, and popped it into my mouth. Morning shows the day, I said to myself.

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