Thursday, September 16, 2010

An official evening and a gauche..

I am sufficiently old and I don’t know many things. Unlike Francis Bacon, all knowledge is not in my province. Come to think of it, my province is pretty small. And among the many things that I do(did) not know is that mince pies do not have mince in them but little bits of sticky fruit.


So, I am sitting here at this east-west official dinner and everyone is interrupting everyone else with their travelogues and the tiresome effort it is to get a good room in a good hotel in Paris, one can’t really stay just anywhere, can one, when these little food items arrive and the hostess says, "have a mince pie." I take one and bite into it and fill my mouth with a reasonably tasty clot of sticky sweet fruit. "Hey," I say, "this is sweet." "Of course," says my hostess, "it is a mince pie." Most people in my position would have heard the penny drop, picked up the drift so to speak and shut up. Put a sock in it. Let it be. Not me. I soldier on, regardless of the flak. "Fancy that," I say, "I always thought mince pies had mincemeat in them, you know like kheema, not fruit, mutton or shredded chicken or something." There is this kinda hush situation followed by a crepe of embarrassment and then a fellow countrywoman turns to me and says, "you didn’t know mince pies are sweet?" "No," I say, "didn’t have a clue, always thought they were like steak and kidney pies, only squishy." She gives a dry, mirthless laugh, as if to say she didn’t know this was an evening for intellectual slumming, where did this one come from, what sort of people are they calling to parties these days, gatecrashers!!


"Where do you live, says another guest, you have never eaten a mince pie. " "No, I say, never, read about it in the books but never really eaten one. Come to think of it, never knew what black pudding was, always thought it was one of those caramel custard things burnt black. " Countrywoman gives a shrill little trill and says, "where do you live, in the boonies, she thought black pudding was sweet, oh this is funny." And all these people from my part of the world they are apologising for my faux pas and prattling on about their impressive relationships with mince pies and the westerners are all looking at me pitifully as if I was one of those drifters who had drifted in and shouldn’t have, and I am looking at this tableau in awe and wondering why I should be ashamed of not knowing there isn’t any mince in a mince pie. Peasant.


Member of the great unwashed. Plebe. So down market, country bumpkin. Guess where these
unspoken but highly articulate remarks are coming from. My own kind. They are red-faced for me and on the way back to the car park I overhear this lady tell her husband, that journalist is so gauche, I mean what will they think of us, we don’t even know what is in a mince pie. And the husband, he is nodding wisely and looking ever so worldly, like he was the world’s leading authority on mince pies and had been fed black pudding along with gripe water in Ludhiana or whatever. By 'they' the lady evidently means the western element at the party. By 'us' she as obviously means all brown billion of us, the majority of which she would not like to associate with, seeing as how they won’t be tops on their mince pie knowhow. If it wasn’t all so tragic it would be mind-boggling funny.

Before I got into the party I also got into my stride and confessed that I was 28 or thereabouts when I learnt that Steak Tartare was raw meat and that the exotic sounding Mulligatawny soup was derived from the Indian words “Mullak thani,” meaning ‘country water’, or simply, lentil soup. I had no idea that a scone was a round piece of cake rather than some exotic food item slathered with hot, melting butter. As for a macaroon I thought it was stretched macaroni. So
what? No one was impressed, not after I had mince pie on my face. With pieces of fruit in it. And then I turned to Allyson and I said, so how come they didn’t just call it sticky fruit pie. And I bet Allyson has no idea what puttu is anyway so we are quits!

35 comments:

Nikita Banerjee said...

Hilarious. And I did not know that mince pies were fruit pies! Bah...you should ask them about Shukto!

rama said...

Well, as far as I know Mullakku thani soup, (the famous soup served in 5 star hotels) is nothing but pepper rasam, or pepper water, which is a Rasam we Tamilians enjoy once in a while especially when one is down with cold, or even during rainy season, as it feels so good at that time. It also goes well with parupu thougail.
Well there are many things about which I also don't know anything, and I also find myself in the foot in my mouth kind of situation.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

You don’t mince any words, do you? Once again, three cheers to that gem of an attitude you possess! By the way you ever had Puttu? :)

anilkurup said...

Until I became civilzed a'la European "Black forest" was a distant forest bordering Austria and Germany.

So it was after being cultured the great European way that I found that black forest is a cake with several layers of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries. Nit wit Indian!

Any way as Arun noted you don't mince any word do you?

Akshay said...

Hilarious. When I was travelling to Kolkata after the Sealdah Rajdhani was introduced, I remember asking the guy in the Pantry Car to serve me some "Shukto" and he was like, "sir, aap jo kha rahe hain wohi shukto hain". I still remember how embarrassed I was then.

Btw, the Mulligatawny soup is actually derived from two words: "Molaga" (read: chillies) and tawny (read: thanni (water)).

vineetasdiary said...

We so are used to name things logically u see :P Mincepie!! I will remember it myself else I am sure I would have denied saying "I am a vegeterian" I suppose that would be more embarassing!! **laughs**

Kavi said...

LOL ! Mince pies !! Thats an education indeed !

:)

Balachandran V said...

You pic of mince pie looked like a piece of scat! But the scone was mouthwatering! And Kudos to you for standing up to the wannabe whites! I am sure the westerners wouldn't have minded a bit your ignorance about mince pie. There is spirit in the way you write, S!

A said...

Hilarious and educational.

Aparna said...

Yorkshire pudding is nothing like a pudding,it is like a round samosa and Caviar is nothing but fish eggs. For a long time I thought eggnog is something that one eats, never knew it was a drink. Imagine drinking raw eggs, eeewwww...
I would rather have avial, at least I'll know what I am eating.

Sonu said...

A gd post didi...and i am also sure she has no idea about 'PUTTU"...
ha ha ha ha...
Enjoyed the post..
Keep writing forever...
:)

R. Ramesh said...

there's always someone to write what i think: thank u A; Hilarious and educational post..abs right..

R. Ramesh said...

there's always someone to write what i think: thank u A; Hilarious and educational post..abs right..

Suraj said...

I love steam cakes....that does make me sound like an snobby Indian NRI...but then that's what PUTTU would be called abroad. :-)

Your post cheered me up and left me hungry as well....! Will have potato burger with bread tmrw :-)

radha said...

Mince pies? Why don't they simply call them fruit pies?

Destiny's child... said...

Now that was information. Even I thought mince pies had minced meat in them. Only read, never had those things. And I am so glad you made a post out of your faux pas. I loved it!
I wonder when people will learn to stop being so self-conscious. But you, are totally bindaas :)

kavita said...

Hey Sujata- a traditional mince pie did contain quite a bit of shredded meat (16th century).Over the years the meat was fully replaced by spices.
No matter how much you try explain it to my mom ,she still thinks that a HotDog contains Dog meat.

sujata said...

@Nikita next time I will make a big deal out of shukto and undhiyo..just watch me!

@Rama thanks

@Arun I have Puttu quite often and I love it with kadala and even without it ..infact with any curry!

@Anilkurup peasants and nitwits unite!!

@Akshay LOL!!

@Vineeta's diary hahaha yes indeed veggies are supposed to eat mince pies you must not forget and not the black pudding!!

@Kavi education indeed for me.

@Bala the pic on top is that of the black puding, the mince pie pic is right at the bottom. The best part was I was not embarrased just amused.

@A thanks

@Aparna I agree, and you should see me take out my glasses to read the italicised contents under the names of items in the menu card at fancy eateries..the kids find it funny, but I have a benchmark..the fancier the name the horrible the taste, simple things like toast and butter go well with me!

@Sonu thanks

@Ramesh thanks

@Suraj agree completely nigella is all we have for education right? steam cakes indeed and dal is a yellow smoothie with fresh green herbs!!

@Radha exactly!

@Destiny's child self concious ..I dont know what that means now do I? wait I do when my kids rattle out more info than required in front of guests..then I am self conscious!!

@Kavita trust you to come up with genuine info dear! I am so glad you came up with this tit bit about mince pies. Well then I am not entirely wrong!!

Ugich Konitari said...

..."Where do you live, says another guest, you have never eaten a mince pie. "......

Delurking out of sheer outrageous anger. Is eating mince pie a "qualification?" ? Just look down in a superior fashion, say you eat only "pate de fois gras". Dont ask me what it is. (I used to think filet mignon was a hairstyle. )

deeps said...

Yet another delicious way of munching stuff with mouthwatering names …..
But in actuality, we have more nutritious stuff available in our country side…

PURN!MA said...

I guess mince pie is like French fries. Mince pie doesn't have minced meat and French fries have nothing "French" in them! How are we supposed to know??

Dr.Antony said...

I was thinking of how Puttu and Idli would have sounded for those people ,and you said it before me.Honestly,I think these people do not have much varieties of food like we have.The Kerala breakfast was voted the best in the world by a leading travel magazine recently.

I also remembered "sweetmeat" which has nothing to do with meat,and just preserved nuts and fruits. Sweetbreads on the other hand are made from animal meat.
After all,what is in a name?

Dr.Antony said...

I was thinking of how Puttu and Idli would have sounded for those people ,and you said it before me.Honestly,I think these people do not have much varieties of food like we have.The Kerala breakfast was voted the best in the world by a leading travel magazine recently.

I also remembered "sweetmeat" which has nothing to do with meat,and just preserved nuts and fruits. Sweetbreads on the other hand are made from animal meat.
After all,what is in a name?

Nona said...

I have never eaten mince pies. So I have no clue! Looks like it was an evening full of lessons for you!

Gymnast said...

pseudo pretentious idiots. I mean seriously , why is it even a big deal , not knowing what a mince pie is , that people around you have to go red in the face for your sake?

Its just called being super pretentious.

Big Deal Sujata..and i love your spirit, you're far too genuine to care about such snobbishness.

The Holy Lama said...

Hilarious. How we like to put on the show that we know when we have no clues of what's coming our way:)
Write about how to eat these different delicacies for many of the brown million friends out here.

eye-in-sty-in said...

well, in your defense, only 55% of Americans do not know which country is the US at war with that starts with A....


Answers included Australia, Asia and Antwerp. So there...!

Cool post...

Sumandebray said...

I appreciate your sense of humour!
I too had no idea what was a Pie ... before I was born.... well a pj

R. Ramesh said...

hey editor ji..waiting to c the next post here...great going..dont stop..

nsiyer said...

Sujata, we have vegetarian putt which is sweet. Coincidentally, My wife bought it yesterday.

Nice write up. hilarious!

wise donkey said...

the header pic is again fantastic. i forgot what u had earlier but the white flower background a bit distracting..

actually you should pity the people who depend on others for approval.

its just so ridiculous!! you could have mentioned few dishes they wouldn't know about.

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