The other day I had gone to Candies for breakfast with K and my mother in law.
We were sipping on our coffees when my mom in law looked up from her hot chocolate and whispered loudly, pointing at the salad counter, "look at that young boy, see how he is piling up salad on the plate. It is an art. He has put so much and nothing is falling off".
I could see the admiration in her eyes!
K and I looked at each other and smiled.
I knew that she too was remembering our dating days. We used to eat out every night then before I dropped her home and I went back to my PG. One of the places we used to bank upon for our meals was Just Around the Corner or JATC in Bandra.
We would always go for the salad. They had a half plate and a full plate option. We used to take the former. I think it was 45 Rs a plate. Or was it Rs 70? It's been a while.
The way it worked was that you walked down the salad counter and added what you wanted to the plate.
Piling the plate was my job. I would make a base with boiled macaroni and the potato and egg salad. Extra potatoes for me. Extra eggs for K. Pat it down with a fork for stability.
Then I would liberally add all the sauces kept there in squeeze bottles - mayo, French, ranch and Thousand Island.
Then the next layer. More pasta. Some roast strips of chewy roast beef. Bits of canned tuna. More boiled eggs. Crowned with layers of ham.
Patted into place with a fork so that the Qutub Minar like stack wouldn't fall off.
And then I would put some soup sticks on to the tray.
We would then pay up. We were rarely the only people with a stack of salads in the queue. The salad piling ritual of JATC was legendary and regulars took pride in their stacking skills.
The two of us would share the salad and that would be dinner.
Sometimes we would feel indulgent and order a huge gooey brownie with ice cream to end our salad. Very, very rarely though.
This 'salad' was all about filling the stomach - potatoes, eggs, ham, beef, pasta, thick sauces - not for the diet conscious.
But those were innocent days. I was thin and didn't stress over health check ups.
We got married after dating for a year and our salad jaunts to JATC ended though we would often go there for waffles and coffee for breakfast.
Eventually the guys who ran JATC probably had enough of the salad binges and shut and reopened as Eat Around the Corner where the salads are more expensive, are plated and are unlikely to be sort of stuff that fuels budding romances.
I often indulgently smile at folks piling up salads at Candies today and nod in approval when I see that them go for the macaroni and potatoes and boiled eggs and not lettuce or broccoli. We've never eaten at the salad counter at Candies. But my mom in law and I both love the cheesy, maya doused, macaroni salad here.
In today's Mumbai, unlike in the Bombay of the early 2000s, you can't put ham or beef on the salad bar though.
This is the link to a post I had written when JATC had shut down. Those were the days people would leave comments on the blog and the discussion would be such fun