Sunday, March 8, 2015

PUNE FOOD MEMORIES

PUNE FOOD MEMORIES 

This morning, in response to one of my “Foodie Status Updates” on Facebook, someone asked me: “Where do you get PUNE CUISINE in PUNE?

This query made me hark back to an article which I had written around 5 years ago, in 2010, on the Culinary Heritage of Pune titled FOOD TOWN PUNE (in a series of articles on YESTERYEAR PUNE) for a magazine – and I had also posted these articles on my blogs.

So – Dear Reader – let me delve into my Foodie Writing Archives and pull out this article and polish it a bit for you to read once more.

(Please note that I first wrote this 5 years ago and many places mentioned may have shut shop – the way Pune Culinary Heritage is dying day by day)

PUNE FOOD MEMORIES
Reminiscences of the Culinary Heritage of Yesteryear Pune 
By
VIKRAM KARVE

A few days ago we went to see a movie at City Pride Satara Road Pune  and since there was some time for the movie to start  we decided to take a stroll and suddenly I saw a board saying:

“Today’s Special  Dahi Ice Cream

We entered Gujar Mastani House  and I straightaway ordered Dahi Ice Cream – while my less adventurous wife ordered her favourite Bajirao Mastani. 

The moment I put the first spoon of Dahi Ice Cream in my mouth  my mind harked back to the Pune of the 1960s when we used to relish Dahi Ice Cream served by inimitable Bua Ice Cream Parlour in the heart of the city. 

Those days Ice Cream was a special treat.

In Pune  there were 3 famous Ice Cream Parlours in the city  each with its Signature Flavour:

1. Bua for unique Dahi (Curds) Ice Cream which I have not tasted anywhere else in India

2. Ganu Shinde for its inimitable Amba ( Mango) Ice Cream

3. Kaware for its unmatched green Pista Ice Cream

All these places served churned ice cream (made in a similar way to the “pot” ice cream we made at home).

If you wanted factory made Kwality Ice Cream you had to go to Kwality’s Restaurant on East Street where you could enjoy delicious creamy slices of Vanilla or Strawberry Ice Cream or my favourite – the delicious fulfilling Triple Sundae.

Like Dahi Ice Cream  yesteryear Pune had many signature dishes which could be called the Heritage Cuisine of Pune

If you wanted to relish the inimitable Non-Veg Puneri Cuisine like Mutton Rassa with Poli or Bhakri you went to:

1. Asara Bhojanalaya in Shukrawar Peth

2. Jeevan on Tilak Road

3. Poonam in Deccan Gymkhana. 

Asara has shut down.

Jeevan has metamorphosed into Grahak Peth Departmental Store.

Poonam is now a pure vegetarian hotel. 

Sweet Home  on Kumthekar Road  which was famous for its Upaasachi (Fasting) Sabudana Khichadi and Piyush  seems to have vanished.

My daughter does not even know what Piyush is  but she surely knows all about lassi and falooda and milk shakes. 

Places like Bedekar (the original Puneri Misal joint) and Santosh Bhuvan are fast becoming relics of the past  and so are the numerous khanawals and bhojanalayas in the heart of the city which are dying a slow death because of dwindling patronage. 

With the proliferation of Kolhapuri and Malvani eateries all over the city  I wonder whether you get assal genuine Puneri Non-Vegetarian Cuisine anymore? 

While Shreyas and Durvankur are still going strong  slowly but surely  Gujarati and Rajasthani Thali restaurants are outnumbering Maharashtrian Thali restaurants.

In the Pune I once knew  heritage cuisine was not restricted to Maharashtrian Cuisine – it also included all sorts of dishes from various cultures which were unique to Pune. 

Like Shrewsbury Biscuits from Kayani Bakery  the inimitable Chinese Dishes served by Kamling on East Street  Dorabjee’s Biryani and Parsi Food  those delectable Mutton Samosas at Naaz  West End’s Soda Fountain – there were so many eateries in Pune City and Camp  many of whom could not withstand the culinary invasion from outside. 

You had a number of Irani Restaurants  most of whom have shut down  except for a handful like Good Luck which is still going strong. 

It is gratifying to see so many pretty young things (PYTs) from the nearby colleges thronging to Good Luck Cafe  which in yesteryear Pune was strictly an all-male preserve.

One of the saddest days of my life was when I noticed a coffee shop in the place of my beloved Naaz

Latif  another heritage restaurant on East Street  also seems to have shut down. 

A few places are still stoically holding out, some even flourishing  like Chitale (for its matchless Amba Barfi and Bakar-Wadi)  Kayani Bakery  The Place (the birthplace of Sizzlerson Moledina Road next to Manney’s Bookstore (which too has downed its shutters) – Burger King  and many more.

However  many heritage eateries have found it difficult to withstand the Culinary Cultural Invasion from the “Tandoori Chicken and Paneer Makhani” North and “Idli Sambar, Dosa, Uttapam” South  and now  with the increasing metropolization of Pune  we have an overwhelming onslaught of international cuisine as well.

Pune was once a salubrious pensioners paradise. 

Pune always welcomed persons from all over.

But everyone  who settled down here and made Pune their home – blended smoothly and harmoniously into the culture of Pune. 

It was the rapidly proliferating Software Industry – the IT Boom which began in the late 1990 which suddenly altered the demographics of Pune – and started transforming Pune into a faceless metropolis. 

As a result of this  Pune’s unique culinary culture was overwhelmed  as restaurants opened to cater to the huge number of upwardly mobile affluent Techies  with plenty of easy money in their pockets who yearned for pizzas, burgers and pastas and popular national and international cuisines. 

The opening of private educational institutes and the concomitant influx of a large number of well-to-do students from all over India and abroad has also contributed to this cultural metamorphosis of Pune. 

Thus  today  you find Punjabi, South Indian, Bengali, Gujarati, Kolhapuri, Malvani and a variety of International cuisines proliferating rapidly to the detriment of Puneri Cuisine  and the unique signature dishes of Pune are disappearing, slowly but surely

Having exotic sounding insipid branded Coffees at one of those ubiquitous coffee shop chains seems to be the “in thing” rather than relishing a rejuvenating cup of Puneri Amrutatulya Chaha (Tea).

Slowly but surely  all this “globalization”, “liberalization” and metropolization of Pune is killing the identity of Pune and destroying its culinary heritage. 

The way things are going  soon Pune will be like any other faceless metropolis. 

You can already see this happening in some localities  especially in the suburbs.

Ask any youngsters about eating out – and they will tell you that today it is Koregaon Park (and not the Peths or Camp) which is the new food district of Pune

But the food you get in Koregaon Park is not the Signature Cuisine of Pune

The food you are served out there in all these new high-falutin restaurants is the ubiquitous multi-cuisine which you can get in any cosmopolitan city of India and around the world. 



Every city has its signature food  and most cities strive to maintain their culinary heritage. 

Punekars must introspect as to why Pune does not seem to be that passionate about preserving Punes own culinary heritage. 

VIKRAM KARVE
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