That 80s show. Locking down on Maggi noodles and Amul butter and cheese memories. Covid-19 Lockdown Journal 24

80s Maggi noodles and Amul cheese memories for tea
Our lockdown quarantine tea last evening took me back to the early 80s.
That is when Maggi noodles was launched in India. My first experience of it was through the samplings at school (the other sampling that I remember was either Boost or Bournvita) and at local corner shops. This was possibly in 1983. It was a rather revolutionary product in the context of what was available then in pre-liberalisation India. A welcome break for someone like me as I had just moved into India from abroad and was rather underwhelmed by the limited range of food products on offer here. I was most fascinated with the permutations and combinations one could do with Maggi. My maternal uncle or mama had called in for both the Maggi and Nestle cook books and we would experiment from those. I was more of a bystander as I was not allowed to use the kitchen fire for safety reasons by my mother till I was in high school. I was very intrigued by the entire process though and perhaps that’s when my kitchen philosophy began to form. One recipe that I remember involved breaking an egg into it while the instant noodles cooked. My favourite flavours were the chicken and capsicum ones followed by sweet and sour, masala not so much. I remember the original ads of the kids coming home to be fed Maggi by the mom so vividly. The jingle, the shots of peas and carrots being added in. The 'just two minutes' promise.
The gruesome smelly and watery Maggi served served in Mumbai market research agency canteens, that I came across later in life, turned me off Maggi noodles for long. I work from home now and have left that world far behind. A few days back I suggested to K that we look for Maggi noodles as pantry options are limited due to the lockdown and easy to cook options are a saviour with our work loads having exploded exponentially. A bundle of packets arrived the day before. I made one with Amul cheese and must said that I enjoyed it. Made it again yesterday and this time two packs as K took a couple of bites too when I made the first pack and the quantity does seem smaller than when we were kids. This was was the masala flavour. I gather from Instagram that 'Maggi Lockdown' recipes are a thing and some wrote in saying they were pleasantly surprised to find Maggi on my feed.
The joys of toast butter pepper

The early 80s, 1981 or 1982, was also when I made my first ‘dish.’ This was when I was at the Calcutta International School, which was then at Lee Road behind the Nizam Palace. Cheese sandwiches made with Amul butter and small blocks of Amul cheese for an activity when all of us in class had to make something and bring to school. I was around 8 or 9 then and was allowed to cut the cheese under adult supervision and my mother possibly cut the edges of the bread. A learning which held me in good stead in life as I used to make these sandwiches for my school tiffin later. Making a cube of cheese last a week was my 'socialist India kid' speciality.

We avoid keeping butter at home for health reasons now, but began buying Amul butter once again after the lockdown began as it seems to be easily available. I occasionally have toast butter, with black pepper sprinkled on, for tea these days. Sheer bliss and each bite seems soaked with nostalgia. Amul cheese has not been that easily available though we do have the posher English mature cheddar at home. We finally scored a big block of Amul cheese a few days back. I made grilled sandwiches, with Bimbo sandwich bread, condiments such as finely chopped tomato, onions and capsicum, and Rajasthani garlic paste, during the lockdown for the building watchmen and me in the evening. I loved it. Loved it so much, that I once made it for our breakfast too. K loved it too.
My two childhood kitchen memories of Maggi noodles experiments and Amul cheese cube tiffin sustenance came together in our evening snack last evening when I made Maggi masala noodles with Amul cheese, finely chopped tomato, onions & chillies, for the two of us. It did bring a smile to both our faces.
Yes, this lockdown has been all about going down the memory lane for us. Do you feel something similar? Do tell me about your earliest kitchen memories. I would love to hear about them from you.
PS: Since some people asked me about where we got these. The Maggi noodles is from Amazon pantry and the Amul cheese from Nature’s Basket. Our local grocers were out of stock for both. K ordered these as I am an old fashioned corner store sort of guy and don’t have the patience for e-commerce apps.

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