Penchant for Food!
By Shoaib Hashmi

It is no secret that the one thing we Lahoris like doing best, and do best, is eating. What is a well kept secret is that one ubiquitous ingredient of our gormandising is your familiar old, common or garden, yogurt! We use it in cooking, we eat it, drink it, use it as a shampoo and conditioner, apply it to wasp stings; we use it to guard against minor colds and coughs and bypasses, and to keep burglars away. As I say, ubiquitous!
And so it has its own culture. It is made, always, in large flat earthenware dishes, which are never washed. That way the milk requires no leavening to curdle, the bacteria live in the pores, and have lived there since the days of the Biblical Patriarchs. We consider the stuff which comes in branded plastic tubs as sissy and not quite kosher. Our yogurt is sold by weight, sliced out of the dish always with an ancient tin plate cut in half, and also never washed as a matter of tradition.
The thing is that all said and done, there is only yogurt; and I am back secure and cozy in Lahore where it is at, after a rollicking fortnight in New York, the Big Apple! Where the only fly in the ointment was a trip to the grocery! While mine host gathered up the other stuff, he told me to go pick up some Yogurt. He found me half an hour later, standing glassy eyed and forlorn, staring at the shelf with a hundred and fifty varieties of the stuff!
It was probably Lyndon Johnson who first described his people as the society of consumers. LBJ didn't know the half of it! It is a mystery how the Yanks get to consume anything. They split it up into so many varieties I blew my mind just making a choice every time I went buying anything.
Around here, with all our penchant for food, we have got by for centuries with just two varieties of green chilies. There are the little green ones which are for effect because they can burn your insides to a cinder; and there are the fat green ones which are for the perfume and their mild taste, and which originally came from Simla and are called 'Simla Mirch'. There they had about five dozen types, ranging in color from yellow to red to purple, with a few blue ones thrown in, and all with names spelt with a 'j' and said with an 'h'!
Just the thought of tucking into that most American of inventions, a chicken burger by Wendy had you reeling because ordering one was like being a hostile witness in one of Perry Mason's court cases. The 'small, medium or large' was the easy part, then it began getting hairy. Did I want tomato and lettuce? Pickled gherkins or cucumbers or carrots radishes or what? And the mustard? French Dijon? Mexican? Just give me a flipping burger!
It's easier in a cinema because the menu is coke and popcorn, and even if you get the littlest size you get a barrel and a sackful! Also every cinema is a dozen halls with a dozen movies playing, but that was easy because you could always ignore the rest and sit through Star Wars three times, ho ho ho!(Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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