Poona aka Pune

MealTango - bringing civility back to the table



Margaret Visser in her wonderful book "The Rituals of Dinner ", points out that one of the things that makes us different from animals is  that we share our food. We do not eat it on the spot .We carry it home and apportion it out between family members.

We have slowly made the sharing of food into an art form. refining rules and adding aesthetic. The mark of a civilized man is the manner in which he "breaks bread"; customs of preparing and eating food that brought pleasure ,culture  and even sophistication to the daily meal. 

In the era of fast food, these forms are fading. Ingesting a meal in the shortest possible time with the least effort minus any decorum , communion or civility cannot be doing us much good.
When we go to a restaurant we try to recreate the those practices of service and conversation but the experience has become ubiquitous  as has the food. It is not possible to create excellent food with fresh, locally procured ingedients for large numbers of people without losing out on quality and taste. 

Luckily there  are many people out there who share the  love of convivality that goes especially well with food and who are willing to put in the effort to make great meals to share .  As Margaret Visser  said people who "remember that breaking bread and sharing it with friends "means" friendship"... and that the word "companion " means literally " a person with whom we share bread."
To meet those people take a look at a new site called MealTango. It brings together hosts and guests who share a love of food and company. It promises to make meals unusual and sociable anywhere in the world.
So if you are a traveller who would like an authentic taste of the place as well as meet a local family you can log in as a guest and find yourself an experience just up your street.
This experience is open to residents as well. Say I want to try appams and stew made in typical Kerala style and meet new people in the process I can find what I need in a few minutes. 
MealTango is also a wonderful opportunity to anyone who has ever dreamed of opening a restaurant but does not have the financial backing or management skills . Its like having an informal restaurant in your own home where the host and guest sit at the same table . Its a perfect showcase for culinary talent and skills in an informal setting. And a chance to earn a  little or a lot for that proficiency.
What I like are the options open for all. Vegetarian , Non Vegetarian, Indian, International, Diabetic, Gluten free, Satvik Jain and  Kosher meals are some of the choices available. 
MealTango sounds like a blessing for the foodie, always on the look out for different tastes with a guarantee that only the best, freshest ingredients will be used . The site offers a hearty meal , breakfast , lunch , tea or dinner that can be had in the company of affable people with similar interests.

I have already booked up for several meals in the next week  and will following up with feedback and reviews of the same.
Meanwhile if you want to be a guest or host log in to MealTango.com and sign up. It takes all of five minutes.


Strawberry Fair 2012



Do you associate strawberries with India? I think of Wimbledon, the Beatles (remember Strawberry Fields Forever ? ), Strawberry Woman- from the musical Porgy and Bess,  all in all not very Indian connections. It a bit of a shock this year to find every corner stand on the roads throughout Pune covered with mounds of huge strawberries for sale.


Maharashtra is slowly becoming the strawberry centre of the sub continent. The temperate climate of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani has always been ideal for strawberry  cultivation and now areas under this crop have extended to other areas of Satara like Koregaon, Patan and Jawali as well as around Pune and Nasik.

There is an active Strawberry Growers Association and they have been instrumental in organising a STRAWBERRY FAIR in Pune this weekend.

Unfortunately the fair isnt exactly what you would expect! There were exactly 2

farmers as against the 300 promised . Two pathetic varieties were available between

which the "farmers" could not distinguish. There were about 50 packets of strawberries

on sale at a rate higher than one can get in the market.

It was all very disappointing indeed.

None of the many varietes now growing in India were on show.

Neither the   Californian  Solana, Torrey and Toiga  nor the Olympus,
 Hood & Shuksan which have a good red colour and
 are excellent for ice cream making and jams,
least of all the  Beauty, Cardinal, Midway, Midland and
 Redchief varieties which are good for processing into juices.
Other kinds which would have been nice to see and taste
 are the Srinagar or Bangalore varieties
 (developed in India) and the ones that do
well in hilly areas like Royal Sovereign and Dilpasand.
Oh well the report was just another bit of PR for an
organisation badly run and probably wasting the
 money of its members.


Surmai Orientally speaking


Marinating surmai

The most popular cuisine in India other than our own is Chinese . Now Thai comes a close second. It is amazing to see how even the most conservative of consumers has taken to Oriental food , like a fish to water.Thai restaurants abound and are doing well especially those serving sea food.

In our own Shivaji market there are a couple of stalls dedicated to Thai ingredients, galangal, lemon grass bulbs, small red chillies

Now that so many ingredients for Thai, Chinese and Japanese food are available locally it is so easy to make this oriental style surmai / king fish.You can also use red snapper cut into four fillets or filleted pomfret.


3/4 kg surmai steaks about 6 x 5" medium sized

2" ginger grated

Juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp dark soya sauce

2 tbsp fish sauce

5  tbsp sesame oil

Mix all the ingredients including 3 tbsp of the oil, and marinate the fish steaks in it for as long as possible in the fridge.

Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and sear the fish on both sides.Cook for about 7 minutes in all, turning over once in between.

Remove and serve on a bed of thinly shredded green papaya, shredded cabbage and grated beetroot.