FOOD AT FAR-FLUNG FRONTIERS (Contd)
There are many books, TV Shows, live demos, courses and classes to cover food on all its facets; International Cuisine of each country, culture and culinary classification. Indian Cuisine itself defies definition, due to our diversity and Indianisation of foreign cuisines. While I am no chef, I used to admire the creativity, imagination and improvisation that I experienced in the army, over four decades of donning the uniform; that was starting from NDA Cadets Mess, through many company cook houses, (Langars) in peace stations including Barakhanas, to Field Kitchens in operational areas to living off the land by survival cooking in commando training and LRPs, (Long Range Patrols), self-contained for anything up to a fortnight, to air maintained outposts in inaccessible and hostile environs, ending up with the pomp and glory of Regimental Dinner Nights in Alpha Messes; perhaps the only ones that’s really visible to the civil ambience and hence the fixed idea based on it as to how the faujis live in style. The rough and tumble are reserved for memoirs like this. Encouraged by the positive feedback on my last two episodes, here are some more of it.
Back to Shakthi Post in NEFA, Vintage1965. Event: Divisional Commando Competition, with my post as a checkpoint. The umpires also had to trek in advance to assess the teams and one of them, an AVSM ( not a décor but an acronym (“A Very Senior Major”) ! After a few days trek, he was fagged out and arriving late evening, he was complaining of fatigue and constipation, looking for a stiff tot and early dinner. The only liquor available at the post was Hercules xxx Rum, ration issue as per field scale to All Ranks and air dropped. In the last drop some got damaged and broken due to hard landing like Vikram! So it was a precious commodity issued as per weather dictates. However as ever it was “Adhithi Devo Bhava”! When a double large was brought, he exclaimed with dreamy eyes “Ah, how I wish for some soda to add to cure my tummy!” In the Army the possible is done instantaneously and the impossible takes a while! Thus in a few minutes, in that godforsaken wilderness, soda was served in another pitcher to the amazement and joy of our guest. After an early dinner of Dal-Chawal, he had a good night’s rest and early next morning when I met him and enquired in the equivalent of “Howdy, Sir” he replied cheerfully “Everything is fine”. He was very eager to learn how we got and stored soda in High Altitude, far away from civilization. The Barman’s Secrets are never revealed. But, what the heck, it may be time now to pass the secret recipe to the Gen next! As a home-remedy I had some “ENO FRUIT SALT” bottles handy and a good spoonful added to the stream water produces effervescent and bubbly soda.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing gained. Here was a win-win situation in the Far-flung frontier. More to follow.