Of working lunches and questions raised by rajma chawal

Rajma chawal, methi paneer, salad, dahi vada and stuffed capsicum and later there
was ajwain roti and ice cream pops and kadhi too at Ira's today.
I would skip the onion when  out at work unless if you have a good mouth freshener

The importance of working lunches


Food was an integral part of my work life even in my agency days.

In the early years, I had the good fortune of working with bosses who put a premium on doing great work AND believed in eating well.

When I became a manager myself, team lunches to celebrate wins, stopping to have a good lunch or an evening snack at a local joint in between meetings, heading to a cafe to brainstorm or even taking a junior going through a rough patch at work to a nearby burger shop for counselling, were all part of my own 'managerial style' too.

Today I caught up with a couple of colleagues who were in my team from possibly the time when I did some of the most exciting work in may market research agency days.

One of them hosted us at home, welcomed us with home made and batata vadas and pav and moong dal salads and when we were about to leave, she said that there was lunch laid out for us too.

Rajma chawal? Or Roti?


This rajma at Ira's was way better than any that I have had in office canteens in Mumbai.
I wish that the management of offices here, especially in agencies, would be a bit
more sensitive about their employees eating well at work. Work definitely would
improve if they do  so & their beloved P&L excel sheets would reflect that

There was rajma chawal for today's lunch and, since we were a bunch of market researchers there, I had to share my sociological insight about this.

Rajma chawal is a preferred combination of the north of India. Punjabis, Kashmiris, those from the hills of Uttaranchal and Rajasthanis too, cannot seem to get enough if it.

Bengalis, on the other hand, are not too keen on rajma chawal. When I was in Presidency College in Calcutta and studying sociology, there was someone who joined us mid session who was supposed to be an academic genius and a bit of a Marxist. It was Calcutta after all. He was in one of the coveted IITs earlier but decided to quit it and come to a general college to study physics. Why? The legend goes that he did so because he hated the rajma served at the IIT mess and decided to drop out. I don't know how true this story was. Some of us guys felt then that he was saying this to impress the girls. Just as some other would claim to be know how to read palms. You know the drill.

I had grown up eating rajma from my high school days days though. That's because my mother had grown up in Delhi and had been to exposed to rajma, channa, lobia, etc from her childhood days. These pulses were not as prevalent in Bengali kitchens back then as dals in a Bengali house were meant to be yellow and not brown, green or red.

We were also early adopter of rotis at home. In an era where gluten, or carbs for that matter, were not bad words, our family considered eating rotis at night to be healthier (read less fattening) than having rice at night.

So dinner would be the dal or vegetable of the day, or a curry, with roti. Which is how I got used to eating rajma with roti (flat breads) and which is what I prefer till today. The more conventional pairing with rice just doesn't work for me.

It's all about social conditioning you see!

Which also explains why I would always pair a fish curry with rice while a meat or egg curry can work with rotis or parathas in my head. The local Maharashtrians won't understand what is the fuss about this though. The Malvani joints here do serve thin rotis with fish curry and the Kolis from Mumbai even have a rice flour based roti called amboli with seafood. Rice and rotis both work with fish here. Of course Mahrashtrians prefer seafood, while most Bengalis, who were brought up on river water fish, would not touch fish from the sea or 'nona joler maachh.' Then there are the Parsis who prefer to have rotlis with their patra ni machhi while we Bengalis would pair our banane leaf steamed fish dish, machher patoori, with plain rice. Whatever works as the movie said!

Which are your childhood food habits that still influence the way you eat today. I am really curious to know. Tell me so that i also know that I am not the odd one out.

The torka dal that I made for our dinner a couple of nights back. My wife, a Parsi,
loves this Bengali favourite which originates from the Punjabi dhaabas of Kolkata

Talking of the sociology of dals, here's a post on how the dal tadkas of the Punjabi dhaabas of Calcutta became the torka dal of Bengali kitchens.
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