Monday, March 16, 2009

Off Roading Kitchen : Journey food for Jeepers

Among the pursuits, I keep flirting with, the one that has stayed for a while apart from food ofcourse, is Off Roading (in the legendary Jeep). An active member of and Northern India offroaders club for nearly two years and a happy owner of a Pajero and a Mahindra MM 550 (Army issue and now with us), having participated in nearly 12-14 off- the road (OTR)events around Delhi. Qualifies for being called an active pursuit.

Where does food come in. I have written about food on State Bhawans, food in Railway trains, food in Greece, food in Bangkok, food in Indian Coffee Houses, Meat stores, Mallu food, Kashmiri food, food in the Army and so on.
Now for the the twist in the tail The Off Road Kitchen. Jeeps and food make strange and compatible bedfellows.Like the pegs in Patiala were big, the appetites and libido for food in North India is generally big. The Jeep forums in South india rarely talk about food and they make boring excel sheets about meagre expenses.
The largesse up North has to be seen to believed.For instance, the last week (OTR) menu was, pyaz kachoris and ghewar (from Jaipur, Rawat sweets, requested by me and promptly executed by Yogesh afellow Jeeper from there). Amazing stuff, a large kachori with a unique flavor, priced at Rs 10/- each and enormous mirchi vadas, lots of barter and stuffing, Rs 7/- and Ghewar, Yogesh please fill in the price. Thanks Buddy.

There was exotic ham and Salami Sandwiches being prepared on site by Sanjiv Singh and Prabh, the Salalami was more than a kilo and a half and brown bread, there were DahiVadas... by a young biker and jeeper from TeamBHP (another motoring forum), I saw some pre prepared chicken sandwiches, lots of boiled eggs, in fact 40 of them. Chicken salad, potato salad, Juices, cold drinks and Amul Lassi.

Our man Friday, Manchand, packed us some Tuna/ Anda Burjee and Cheese Sandwiches with a wad of Alloo Parathas and Chai and some softdrinks. Our companion Alex brought some beer(which we coul'dnt consume, he was on Lent (abstinence before Easter) and I am temporarily a boring vegetarian and going easy on beer) . Besides drinking is forbidden before the OTR ends, we left before it was declared closed for the day.

We are often accused of more eating and less jeeping (by the other chapters of Jeep Thrills in India). That was only breakfast. I did not stay for lunch. We are mean Jeepers with mean appetites.The off roading is pretty intense with a lot of tough terrain and tough tracks. You have to be there to believe it.
Our food and cuisine has improved over the last two years, its started out with cold boiled eggs and sandwiches and some tea..... then moved up to homemade ham by Pranab dutta (with the land rover and an Suzuki Intruder motorcycle), yours truly took good shammi kabab sandwiches, exotic duck curry by RB Singh (rides a Ford World War 2 Jeep).

Moved on to a fantastic professional barbecue by a kabachi from Nizamuddin. He made seekh kabab, chicken and paneer tikka and fresh roomali rotis on windy and pleasant, May evening,last year. Beside, the Behrampur lake in the Aravalis near Gurgaon. Graciously hosted by Gary and, he would not accept our monetary contribution for a grand meal.

I once heard Pranab, say I like to come out with the Jeepers more than with the Bikers because here the food is better. We also have diet parathas (oil less) from Romi Malik's Kitchen with generous dose of lassi and juices. Laxman (a moderator and the life blood of the forum) is partial to bringing in Idlis smothered with gunpowder and Sarvinder (a capableoff roader and a moderator) likes his Chicken ham sandwiches with a slice of onion. RB ( veteran jeeper and moderator) is more than partial to Indian food, with his constant hunt for specialities of the region, a spice, a unique meat cut, a new flavour. And the legendary duck curry.

Now for the piece de resistance Arjun Khanna (drives a Prado and is professional chef) and feed 40 hungry people(jeepers ) in 40 minutes, the menu, sausages, fresh fried eggs (all on site), baked beans, a mean cheese spread and freshly brewed coffee on a methane burner (helped by my little 9 year old daughter Ananya, brewing the coffee). The guy is amazing and more than generous. To the extent everyone is wee bit disappointed when Arjun is not coming Jeeping. His field kitchen serving hampers and the trolley is amazing, very very oraganised and state of the art.

Erstwhile, packed food for journeys was usually sandwiches, Aloo puri, parathas and dry subzi with pickles for North Indians. Gujratis travelled then with a retinue and continue to do so even today with khakras, phaphdas and theplas with chundoo pickle. The South Indians carried enormous tiffins with a spoon to fasten it and hold it together, stocked with tamarind rice (rolled and insualted in banane leaves. The Bengalis loved their aloo and luchi and jhal (mirchi) with a piece of kalakand as a sweet and triangle namkeens called nimkis.
Have we all left this behind to evolve a new set of Journey food, some of us don't even bother to take something along, plan-to buy-everything-on -the -way. Another kind carries only packaged food as opposed to packed food.

My favourite story of packed food is the one told by maternal Grandfather (a legendary Police Officer of Undivided Punjab, Diwan Kasturi Lal Chopra). Once he and British- Christian- Priest, set out to do some relief work in Rohtak floods in the 50s. The missionary priest had an Aluminium boat (a novelty then), they set out to give supplies to the flood stricken locals. Come lunchtime, grandpa opened his tomato and butter/cheese sandwiches with a thermos of Chai. The priest opened his parathas, anda Burji and mango pickle. Strange how, both had adapted. Grandpa to the British he worked for, and the priest adapted with the Indian way.
Fortunately The Offroad kitchen we have has amalgamated to be a ethnic pot with all varieties and cultures both Indian and foriegn, adapted to one great jeeping cuisine.
We have our codes for the beverages,
Bangalore ka pani : Beer
Roos ka Pani : Russian Vodka or just Vodka
Brown Pani : Whisky
Boodha Padri : Old Monk rum and so on and so forth......

Ususually, there is plenty going and every is generous to pass on whatever, they have, its very very democratic, almost like an ideal commune. You have to check it out.

Parting shots:
What were the Jeep variants in France and Japan called ?
Whats your favourite Journey food story?
So long !

1 comment:

mradul said...

With jeeps, jeepers and food in all variants and sizes it sure sounds like one hellva experience. I could not help thinking of our kind of food orgy on our numerous trekking expeditions especially in monsoons. Trekkers’ food choices are limited since weight is an issue. So a salami sandwich makes way for a wada pav (as it is the only thing available at base camps) Aloo parathas or dahi wadas makes way for magi noodles or simple khichdi mixed with whatever is available. Nevertheless BF/Lunch/Dinner or even simple tea (which we make on the way) is an orgy…with everyone gobbling up whatever is in sight. Lunch is usually in some kind of a village which has bhakri, dal, rice, crushed onions and thecha (crushed green chillies with salt).

PS. Your pic with l’ll Annaya is cute. Looking forward to yur nxt post sir..