Monday, March 5, 2012

FOOD TOWN PUNE - Memories of the Culinary Heritage of Yesteryear Pune

Last year, I wrote a few articles last year on the Pune of Yesteryear for my column in an ezine called The Punekar, which I want to share with you, Dear Reader.

Here is another article in the same series A PUNEKAR WALKS DOWN MEMORY LANE on the CULINARY HERITAGE OF PUNE  titled FOOD TOWN PUNE

I hope you will enjoy these reminiscences, and maybe this will tempt you to  hark back to your good old days too. Please do let me know if you liked this article and comment – I look forward to your feedback.  

Memories of the Culinary Heritage of Yesteryear Pune 

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 Bua in the heart of the city. 

Those days Ice Cream was a special treat, and there were three famous Ice Cream Parlours in the city, each with its Signature Flavour – Bua for unique Dahi (Curds) Ice Cream which I have not tasted anywhere else in India, Ganu Shinde for its inimitable Amba ( Mango) Ice Cream and 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 the 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 Asara Bhojanalaya in Shukrawar Peth or to Jeevan on Tilak Road or Poonam in Deccan Gymkhana. 

Asara has shut down, Jeevan has metamorphosed into Grahak Peth Departmental Store and Poonam is now a pure vegetarian hotel. 

Sweet Home, on Kumthekar Road, which was famous for its Upaasachi 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 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 NaazWest End’s Soda Fountain – so many places, many of whom could not withstand the culinary invasion. 

You had a number of Irani Restaurants, most of whom have shut down, except for 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 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 (which too is downing its shutters), Burger King and many more, but 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 pensioners paradise. Pune always welcomed persons from all over but everyone who settled down here and made Pune their home smoothly and harmoniously blended into the culture of Pune. 

It was the rapidly proliferating IT Boom which began in the late 1990s 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 techies 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 slowly but surely disappearing. 

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

Slowly but surely, all this “globalization” and “liberalization” 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 youngster 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 what you get in Koregaon Park is not the Signature Cuisine of Pune – it is cuisine you can get in any cosmopolitan city of India and abroad. 

Every city has its signature food and most cities strive to maintain their culinary heritage. One must introspect as to why Punekars do not seem to be that passionate about preserving their culinary heritage. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.


Parikshit Vilekar said...

This article is a nice journey down memory lane. I've visited all these places with my father when I was a kid & have fond memories of most of them. Kamling is where I learnt to love Chinese, the old couple who owned Kamling, eating with Chopsticks (I was seeing chopsticks for the first time) is a memory which has been imprinted on my mind forever.. I guess Bua Ice cream shut shop before I set foot there but have always heard my father, uncles & aunts talking fondly of the place. Kayani, Dorabjee's, Marz-O-Rin, Naaz Bakery & Cafe, Kwality & Latif's have made up for so many fond memories of Camp of my childhood.. Piyush is one thing which i still savor at Janaseva Dugdh Mandir on Laxmi Road. Mcdonalds & KFCs may come & go but say burger & Burger King is the only place which my brain can recall.. Another fav place to eat is Baghbaan's Kitchen on East St. opp Olympia cafe which itself was a landmark which has ceased to exist. Appacha canteen & its Sabudana Khichadi too is a legend. Santosh Bakery on Apte Rd. & Darshan at the end of Prabhat Road are favorites too. Have seen people asking waiters @ Vaishali & walking off from there because they don't serve Pav-Bhaji with bewilderment..!! Pav-Bhaji reminds me of Aunty chi Pav-Bhaji outside Dena Bank on Deccan (this was there when Z Bridge was non-existent) & Muley Snacks at the very place where McDonalds at Deccan stands today. Cafe Sunrise was another legend & so was Poona Coffee House where my Grand-dad & his buddies used to socialize on Sundays (when Coffee used to be served at PCH) with Salted Cashews from the store outside PCH owned by my dad's friend Mr. Ashok Shah's family. Was also a fan of Big Bite which used to be sold outside PCH where later Chit-Chat came up later; Chit-Chat's chicken pizza & Kheema Dosa have made up for numerous memorable meals too..! Not to forget Cuck-kuch-koo's Chicken Tandoori, Kheema Nan, clear soup whith dinner roll & many more.. I guess i can write reams & reams on my childhood food memories thanks to you Mr. Karve..!!

Ashwini said...

Very good article. Brought back all those fond memories of Pune's food culture.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Parikshit - thank you for your detailed foodie experiences in Pune which have added value to my blog.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Ashwini - I love to hark back to mouthwatering foodie memories

kiran said...
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