Poona aka Pune

Auchan not so chaan

Auchan
It took me some time to begin shopping for groceries at supermarket chains. I felt disloyal to my neighbourhood general stores where my rupee contributed to the preservation of "small business".

In the face of horrifying parking issues in Pune ( where not one building has adhered to parking laws, and has sold or rented parking spaces to house yet more shops, so customers are forced to park on the road,  creating more jams, obstructions and stress) I have been forced to frequent the self help supermarkets proliferating all over Pune.. 

It has not all been  under protest though. The parking lots are the main attraction. No major warfare  at the time of parking. Trolleys to save the weight on my arms, airconditioning and choice.All this makes it an option today.The time saved, alone, makes it worthwhile. 

In the beginning it seemed as if every supermarket catered to a foreign clientele- olive oil, pasta, mayonnaise , tinned , processed and unrecognisable foods filled the shelves. However I was glad to notice that one or two supermarkets had the average Indian customer in mind and offered, besides jowar and bajra grains and flour, more niche foods like dosa batter, idli batter and khowa, lassi and paneer.

And so I became a regular customer at Auchan (once known and soon to be known again as Spar.)

Ah Woe is Me!!

Auchan logo

For the last month I have been going to the delicatessan counter to pick up the usual batter and have been met with an indifferent ...." Its finished or Just starting to grind, or I dont know , not available. " No explainations, no concern, no attempt to cater to the customer. Nobody had bothered to ensure that products which were advertised were actually stocked or available.

When attempting to make a complaint, there is no manager, no assistant manager, no customer care human available . Have they all gone to lunch at 12 oclock at the same time, or maybe congregating for an important meeting in the toilet?

Unless you stage a dharna and raise your voice no person in sight wants to come forward and take responsibility.

As in all these large companies when it comes to the crunch the customer just has to lump it because no one is hearing. It seems every food retail business in India is making money hand over fist and couldn't care one bit about the consumer....yes, us little people who make your tills ring.

It is no longer worth going out of my way to a supermarket to buy ALL my groceries on the promise of one or two items specific to them, when there is no guarantee that they will be available. For the rest what they stock is what my mom and pop store stocks. So its back to Panchali General store for me.

Bye Bye Auchan and Spar


Breakfast on the Deccan Queen

While much has changed for the worse, some things have definitely changed for the better, in the last five years, in India. One of the changes I am really grateful for is to be able to book train tickets online.

Hallelujah!!

Does anyone recall ye olde days of yore at the railway station, standing in a queue for 4 hours to reach the head of the line only to be told “Sold out” or “Waiting list only” or only available for the next day and other such disappointing stuff. We knew full well that half the tickets had been “reserved” to be sold in the black market later that day.

Being a frequent PUNE-BOMBAY traveler this was my weekly plight. My fate was to be jammed in with a hundred other women for “floor only” seating in the unreserved ladies compartment, time after time.

Eleven years ago all that changed. IRCTC online happened and there has been no looking back. Oh the pleasure of booking a ticket from the comfort of home rather than being inspected with infinite interest from top to toe, for an interminable four hours by bored and curious fellow queue’ ers in the grubby and smelly environs of the booking office !!

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Though trips are less and less frequent, I still make the odd journey on the Deccan Queen (now rather battered by age) with its tattered blue rexine covered seats and less than spacious chairs.

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However one wonderful tradition has not changed.  The menu of breakfast made fresh in the pantry car......

Omelette sandwich, Cutlet sandwich, Sabudana wadas , hot chai and coffee. All dripping with oil and deliciously sinful, served with “tomato” (read pumpkin) sauce.

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The waiters have a great memory, taking the order before Lonavala and coming round a couple of hours later (around Panvel), to settle the bill without aid of pen and paper.

Today the price of the breakfast snack is significantly more than the original 35 paise but worth its oily weight in gold.

When you crave the fine pleasure of spacing out on train journeys and eating gloriously unhealthy stuff, or are bitten by the nostagia for the delights of chair car travel and railway food- you can whip up the following.

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 Omelette Sandwich Deccan Queen Style

Ingredients

2 tablepoons vegetable oil or butter

2 eggs, beaten

½ onion, finely minced

/1 green chilli, finely minced

½ tomato chopped fine

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large slices white bread

Method

1. Heat the oil and a frying pan. When hot fry the onions and chillies. When soft add the tomatoes and sauté.

2. Pour in beaten eggs and fry till set. Fold into half and then fold again into a quarter

3. Butter two slices of bread. Put the quartered omelette in between .

4. Serve hot with plenty of tomato sauce and a paper napkin to wipe a shining face later.


Handmade Studio Ceramic Cookware from Stove top to Oven to Table

 Most of my readers know that I do not accept advertising in my posts and rarely promote anything unless I love the product . This is one of those rare occasions when I am moved to write about a great product , and am so enthusiastic because , besides other things, is made in my hometown Pune, Maharashtra, India by a talented potter and inventor called Ninad.

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Dutch Oven perfect for dal, soup, one dish dinners and slow cooking

 I first bought a large Uruli type serving dish for a friend and returned to buy more when she responded with high praise for the lovely dish .

Since then I have been buying his line of gas top / ovenware dishes . These withstand high levels if direct heat and can , unlike other ceramic cookware, be used directly on the stove top . They can also be popped into the oven and are beautiful enough to transfer straight to the table to serve in.

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Frying pan

 

They are come in three useful shapes. A handi shape like a pot , a Dutch oven shape and a saucepan shape .

I use the shallow one for frying eggs, sautéing vegetables and making sauces . The deeper 1.5 liter Dutch oven I use for one dish dinners and soups . The great thing is, I start by frying garlic , onions, and spices on the stove top and carry on to prepare the base sauces before adding the rest of the ingredients and transferring the dish to the oven. When all is cooked it goes straight to the table .Just like a cast iron pan but less heavy and so much prettier.

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Shepherds pie before popping into the oven

I love using the dishes and the taste of food cooked in them. Ninad ships everywhere and his prices are amazingly reasonable for handmade studio cookware . Check it out at ninadspottery.com