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
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)