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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Mother of all Mezcals

Mother of all Mezcals 

This is a story that happened in the colourful streets of grafiteed Oaxaca a Mexican tourist haven .

We spent three days in this lovely place with picture postcard Spanish houses ,crimson horizons a delight to any photographer and exotic food which  belched out any decent foodie .

Well to leave out Mezcal ,in anything on Oaxaca is criminal under IPC ie International Penal Code 

Mind you .

When thousands of years back yelping Aztec warriors climbing down from thier Pyramids gathered thier spiny cactuses and buried them in pits to make them steamy hot and fermented into liquid gold their magical potion of Mezcal which they would gulp like fire itself before they yooped their war cries to ride their galloping wonders hair strewn ready to battle .

But imagine what if the same liquid was gulped by a plumpy spectactacled senior citizen with no wars to fight but with his beevi !

Well he will buy one bottle for amchi ghar .

Which is exactly what we did luckily in the Beneve Mescal companys outlet .

Having travelled so much both of us forgot that liquids above 100 ml even if it was thier own soma rasam is never allowed in  a carry bag .

Something made us think we can convert it into a check in bag and all will be fine .

But enquiries before leaving to airport told us that would be as costly as four bottles we had bought .

Not to fail but try options in dead ends is the duty of any self respecting mescal guzzling general .

So I tried several options .

Called the shop who said no we cant return the purchase .

Talked to a taxi driver in pidgin Spanish of how we would grant him a bottle of Mezcal three times his fare to barter us to the airport 

He said a bored NO .

Resigning ourselves to destiny we reached the airport and they repeated same things .

Wife was looking at me strangely .

Why dont you just drink it off instead of wasting it !!!!

Typical of an Indian housewife used to eat leftovers .

But this wasnt yesterdays Biriyani this was  49 % alcohol by volume and if I even take a part of bottle I would need a stretcher but by then I may drive the plane to Mexico city myself .

The only option was to call out if anyone wanted to buy Mezcal

Mezcal Mezcal 

The cops would lock me up in a Mexican prison for 100 years .

Suddenly wife spotted a Beneve Mescal outlet in Airport meant for those arriving to buy it .

We went told the lady our sob story of how we bought a bottle of her brand and now coudlnt take it home !!

Would you buy it back for half price please ?

She said I will do better.

You give bottle to me .

I will scan bill and give you a note and you collect a new bottle in duty free outlet of our shop which was after security so legally we can take things bought sealed there in cabin bag !!

Zo simble .

And thats how it happened .

Almost an anti climax to the mother of all Mezcals story .

Incidentally Mezcal was father of Tequila .

In Malayalam that is 

Tequileda Thandha 😉


Mezcal myths

 Mezcals Myths 

Oaxaca the southern heritage town of Mexico is also called as the capital of MEZCAL a drink becoming quite popular these days with lot of hyphe ,

Its similarity in sounding  to Mescaline a hallucinatory drug adds to it unnesscary labels too .

Mezcal is just another alcoholic spirit from Cactus plant .

Well thats Tequila right ?

Yes you are right but wrong !!

Tequila dear people is the liqour distilled only from Blue Agave and in select distilleries in Mexico .

Tequila usually is taken as shots with lime and salt in hand for a lick .

In fact one smears lime and salt in forearm and gives it a lick and one shoots Tequila .

Mezcal is mother of Tequila .

The old Aztec ancestry of Oaxacan region brought out Mezcal which is liqour distilled from so many varieties of cactus which are preserved for long fermented in underground vats and then distilled .

Its supposed to have a smokier fruitier flavour and generally advised to be taken straight .

In fact Mezcal unlike Tequila has to be sipped not shot  like tiny kisses to your beloved, sip in tiny teeny weeny bits with mezcal snacks like carrots sprinkled with salt and lime and drink some warer in between .

Shooting a Mezcal may just be a fiery experience .

Is Mezcal strongest drink in world and does one go high after a small take ?

No itsnt it has ABV 49 % which most self respecting Vodka or Rum do have .

Another famous Mezcal story is about the Mezcal worm .

The worm is actually a larvae called Gusano and the one with a gusano is cslled Con Gusano ,

If it wasnt dunked in a Mezcal bottle the poor moth would have flown off as a beautiful butterfly .

It all started in 1950 when a Mezcal maker in Mexico discovered a larvae floating in his prepared bottle and decided to leave it alone and the lil guy became a superstar .

Myths abound on Gusanos some say it could make you blind 

no way if its crudely made cheap mezcal with more methanol it could ,

not the poor worm soaked in liqour would give you a better high as it has soaked enough to if you are brave enough to give it a chew .

Mexican Govt banned use of Gusanos to keep up with international guidelines but allowed them back due to protests from manufacturers and users .

So if you are ok with it go for Con gusano its just the novelty of it 

I wouldnt take creepies fried or dunked but ..

In Oaxaca there are many Mescaltinos where mezcal creators serve you thier fare .

But on day one I opted for a safe Margurieta my favourite cocktail with tons of ice and rimmed with salt and lime .

It was more like a tangy lime juice maybe the Tequila portion was tiny .

Mezcal is waiting 😁

Airline food

 Airline food 

Generally airline foods are assembly line created in massive kitchens or catering hotels .

The menus are planned and have nice labels but generally they are sanitised maas production cooled reheated for serving in economy 

Of course your meal preference can be given like Asian Jain Hindu Indian Non veg egg veg etc .

Drinks are given in international flights but in economy mostly long haul flights as sample bottles with ice and soft drink mixes .or beer or wine .or soft drinks juices .

In B class and First class there are more choices in menu and we often find Michelin star chefs have given thier name to the exotica but not all labels are truly gourmet many are just jingoistic .

Drinks are rarer wines even champagne and costlier drinks with more choice .

In Cochin Dubai trip 

We had one meal call it early breakfast S flight left at 4.30 am reached Dubai 8.30 am 

It was hot tasty and simple 

Of course soft drinks coffee tea were there too .

In Millenium airport hotel where we were given a room by emirates one meal was free

We opted for lunch

It was a set lunch 

Starting with salads soup main dish for me was fried rice chilly chkn fir premila rice with madras fish curry and dessert .

It was tasty hot served well though it was an italian themed restaurant very classy .

In our long flight to mexico city from Dubai we had one meal before Barcelona snacks in between a pizza

Later two more meals 

Dont remember details but there was chicken steak beansmashed potato salads crackers choclates 

I had a small vodka on one meal 

Again hot and tasty .

Emirates has a huge kitchen in Dubai and one can see it in you tube .

Flight to Mexico

 30 september 2021 

What does one do after a flight across half the world from Dubai to Mexico city via Barcelona ?

One sleeps 

As ones inner clock is all jumbled up that one feels like a zombie who had tequila one too many and saw a dinosaur too .

Kidding iam not sozzled its just the jet lag coupled with the altitude sickness that happens when one is air dropped to high altitude city though not very high around that of Ooty .

Economy in any flight is economic in its comforts, cramped spaces and boxed lunches with continious sky movie watching and standing in front of flight toilets giving way to the busy stewardesses .

And with bloody masks on and God knows where the made in China microbe was lurking in !

I truly pity the crew of airlines  doing this for a job ,odd times ,at times irritable passengers and work stress

Appreciate all of them they do a great job .

One good thing in such flights passengers too are reasonably well behaved considerate and not pushy even us Indians ..

So we left Dubai at 4 am on Tuesday morning in a 

Boeing 777 .200 LR ( LONG range )

Emirates has lot of Boeings mostly huge 777.. 300 ER ( extended range of more than 7000 nautical.miles ) .

Since ours did have a stopover at Barcelona Spain where crew changed too and we had to step out and later come back while flight was cleaned .

But then I cant add Spain in my visited countries list just being in transit .

After Spain plane got fuller more cramped and time stopped as it was just food TV and toilet visits with lost wires fallen forks etc but fun indeed.

During covid times online form fillings have increased

Spain required an online form with a QR code for transit too ..

All this as we held valid US visas which was a passport to most countries imagine what a green card or citizenship gives you but i wouldnt forsake my indian citizenship for these minor advantages at all 😁

And so we landed in Mexico city almost a day behind 

Time travel to past

And jet lag hit us in force with altitude sickness but the luxury of a Hyatt makes us rest well .

 Flying these days thoughts 

Hopping across countries in intercontinental flights where one is jettisoned across time barriers like a piece of flotsam floating in an alumunium tube flying solely out of mans ingenuity .

Even a  hundred years back people went in huge steamers on choppy seas for the same voyage taking weeks ,though planes existed even then but to put bombs into each other or to ferry passengers though rarely .

Our progress in aviation has been remarkable indeed ,and there has been a  transformation in its outlook .

From luxury travel to utilitarian .

Even business classes are more businesses now albeit with better space , leg room ,classier sounding food ,real cuttlery ,and stretchable ergonomics instead of  old world luxury of low skirted stewardesses mixing cocktails .

First class still retains the  charm of yesteryears for those who can afford its extravagance , or to those qualified enough to be sponsored for the same .

Dont grumble 

About chartered planes or flying in own planes i know nothing to write .

Economy class has definitely become cattle class and iam sure there are brainos whose job it is only to find how to pack more in less .

The crew are more focussed on doing thier jobs and not in serving the passengers with charm and rightly so too ..

When we reached Mexico city after a day everyone though tired broke into a clap of gratitude to the crew who had  brought us safely across the oceans and tended us softly but surely ..

Security checks have definitely changed too as the dangers lurking have too .

No use in grumbling 

pack wisely ,be aware of cons and respect thier jobs .

At times its absurd as in India with same task being repeated , but there could be a reason for that and that may prevent you and me from being blown off into blithereens .

There are enough rabid loonies flying around .Immigration people I had noticed though some are friendly ,are not that back tapping loud guffawing salesmen, instead most are sombre ,with Indian immigration officers winning the price for frowning .

Naturally they arent models to keep grinning at you and me right ?

Baggages are delivered better though some get thrown a bit as seen in you tubes but baggage claiming and rechecking in in transits is a punishment .

About food iam doing a post on aviation food ,read it .

Above all Covid brought flying to a halt though things are opening up now .

 immigration officers frowns arent seen through thier masks these days .

See look at the positive side of things .



Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Brass tumblers

 These are brass tumblers .

Generally in Mylapore the most conservative part of yesteryear Madras maamas and maamis drank thier 3 pm Filter kaapi in this .

Most brahmin households had a type of food pattern .

No bed coffee business

Palla velakaama kaapiya !!!siva siva !!!they would say

After morning snaanam at 9am most houses had proper lunch !

believe it or not 

Idli ,dosa ,vada ,poori all came later .

Those days it was sappadu with ney paruppu ,urlakizangu podimas  Rasam or rarely sambhar appalam ,rice always pacha arisi .

I had taken this  many days as a boy .

Dei inniku school illeyonno engaathila saaptuko maami would say 

Amma kitta naan solikren .

It was freshly ,made hot, and very tasty healthy food .

After this the maamas would go to work  ,may carry a kutti box with some snacks for madhyanam kaapi .

Maamis would finish housework and by noon lie down with Ananda vikatan .

At 3pm most houses had kaapi mebbe with some cheeda or muruku .

And around 7 pm some light tiffin like dosa or idli etc and one masala paal for maama in nearby pettikada .

Some cheated with a quick cigarette trying to be naughty for a maama .

Please I am not ridiculing anyone by this description .

They were all part of my childhood and most as close as my family .

That was thier simple life style .

Another important bit was no one sipped kaapi or water ( thoothum ) from glasses.

Mylapore expected one to thooki kudika ie you poured the coffee even if hot without touching glass .

I can still do it .

Actually its hygenic too .

Thus the routine was broken only for say a marriage and hotel visits were very rare as most maamis were heavenly cooks .

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Houston Metro


The Houston Metro is an excellent way to travel fast and safe .

It is not very large has a red and green line .

Red line mostly covers Medical city and is mainly crowded during hospital staff travel times as parking is pretty expensive near or in hospitals even for staff .

Hence many park away from area and shuttle by Metro ,many living in aptmnts  close to line dont use their cars .

To tourists like me its very nice to loiter around areas far to walk .

I am yet to explore downtown areas .

Houston is vast as Texas itself is .

Everything from cars to Burghers to steaks big is password of Houston .

That includes people too .

Popeyes burgers

To me Popeye outlet of fried Chicken and Burghers  have always been a favourite .

They like KFC are known to sell fried chicken and burgers but only chicken .

More than 3500 branches in USA and in 30 countries abroad ( India does not have I think ) it was designed after the Popeye cartoon charachter of a sailor .

I started knowing it from the outlet in Kuala lumpur Airport KLIA II which was my regular transit point flying from Brunei to most places including India .

It was in the first floor just close to Lounges .

Last i had was in my  transit to Cambodia in 2019 .

In fact I used to have food in lounge but still not miss my Popeye burger .

The patty was very fresh and crunchy and the Buns warm soft but not friable and dry .

The french fries described as Cajun were long crispy slightly spicy tangy and irresistible .

I think they had coffee too instead of usual soft drinks .

The popeye outlet was started in 1972 in New Orleans Lousiana .

I was happy to stay a week in this birthplace recently  of my favourite Burgher though I did not have one then .

Yesterday my son in law  took us to Popeye in Houston knowing I liked it so much .

Popeye still did not disappoint us .

It was fresh crunchy tasty satisfying as ever .


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Tied by a knot

The necktie 

Its said it all began in Croatia .

The mercenaries hired by Louis VIII for the war which lasted 30 years wore these pieces of cloth around thier necks actually to tie thier tunics but the king sort of liked the look and thus craveat became part of French regimental and formal wear in 17 century .

With time the neck tie took so many shapes and forms and became an important part of menswear .

The knots used to tying ties were many and did need some practice .

I still remember my dear friend Sushil Daniel an Optholmologist coming home to teach me the art of tying knots as I was going go join an UAE hospital and most hospitals abroad required doctors to wear them .

In India thanfully its limited to some .

The tropical heat of India is ill equipped for the adornment as air was needed to flow in from above too .

In UAE with its sanitised conditioned weather cocoons one could manage .

Even though Sushil did a great job my confidence in managing the feat was low so I carried a couple of knotted ties for the early days which I would put like a necklace and squeeze 

Thanks dear Sushil !

Incidentally neck ties are supposed to be next to florid beards in bacterial contamination..bad news for hospitals .

With time knots never put me in knots as it was an every day chore for last one decade and  in Brunei too .

But still I prefer tieless freedom , for wearing that top bottom makes me feel strangulated and first thing I do at 5pm is to unknot that tie and release my buttons and heave a sigh of relief !!

Iam happier even on formal occasions with a jacket sans tie .

Oh those Croatians !


Three delights in food

Three delights I remember in my childhood are
Bread Butter Jam
Masala Milk or paal
And Rose milk .

Of course not that I got them often .

Close to my house there was a bakery owned by a malayalee in downtown Mylapore ( downtown sounds nice after coming to US 😁)
To your information yours faithfully spent his childhood in this conservative temple strewn narrow streeted part of Madras ( no Chennai vennai those days it was Madras pronounced Madhraas .)

The place was mostly middle class hard working people ,most were brahmin households and vegan was in the air .

Making non veg was surreptious and fish never with its trade mark smells for we all cared for our neighbours as much as they did to us ..

People were simple honest friendly helpful and with no disdain .

The buffaloe rearing milkmen were boorish after 7 pm with local spirits in thier tummy but by morning would become timid pet cats while they skilfully mixed water with milk under the strict security cameras of doubting maamis .

As i mentioned most bakeries and tea shops were run by malayalees to whom Madraas was Dubai then .

Most were called Naayars by the locals though they may be a Poulose or ibrahim kunju from Pala or kottakal .

Coming back to my original story bread butter jam was a quick snack in local bakery I saw when i went to buy bread .

Fat school boys would get down from cars and bite into one while thier doting mothers would watch them indulge .

Masala milk used to simmer by evenings in corner tea cum pan cum cigarette shops and plump mamas would sidle up after thier early dinner for a quick hidden ciggy and a perfumed masala paal .

Rose milk from legendary Kalathi stores which still sells it ,was a temptation for all and a rare reward those days .



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