Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Peer Sahib for lunch

“Ootakke Peer Sahib untu.  (We’re having Peer Sahib for lunch), squeaked the timid Sumangala, my grandmother’s long suffering cook from Udupi, as I walked into the kitchen.  “Wha..?” I asked.  She took in a deep breath, closed her eyes and looked like she was about to pass out.  This of course, was no cause for concern as it was her normal way of starting a new paragraph.

“Peer Sahib”, she said mournfully.  “Chapatiya mele tamta, seeju, ella haaki bishi-bishi maadi koduvudhu, gottillavo?”  (Tomato and cheese on a chapatti)

Ah.  That. “Yes, please!”  I told her.  My super cool grandmother had been talking about making pizza for a couple of days and yay!  She’d finally gotten around to doing it!  Hers was the best recipe in the whole world.  All the quirky things she did to her ingredients made the pizza even better.  She’d grind up tomatoes and onions in the mixie and stir them about in a buttered wok with a bucket of cream and lots of love and affection.  She’d then hand mushrooms, capsicum,  carrots, cauliflower and anything else she could find to the waiting Sumangala who’d sigh and dip them in bisneeru (hot water) for exactly a minute.  “It’s called blawn-ching dahling”, she told me once when I asked her if she was crazy.  “Gets the raw taste out of them da raja.”  Mhaha. 

A generous smear of the sauce went on the pizza base (bought fresh from Vijaya Bakery), three tons of veggies went on top, and finally the piece de resistance:  Good old fashioned Nilgiri’s cheddar.  About three cows’ worth. 

On the verge of collapse, two such pizza towers would be placed gingerly in granny’s aluminium dabba oven that Sumangala would sighingly dust out and place on top of the gas stove.  My brother and I would stake claims on the pizzas we wanted.  The top one would get all melty and yum, while the bottom one would turn black at the bottom and go crrrunchh when you bit into it.  We wanted both, so granny dearest would dispatch us off to the dining table, where we sat twiddling our thumbs impatiently until the pizza arrived. Through granny’s good offices, we’d each receive one half of both pizzas: two quarters burnt at the bottom and two quarters melty on the top.  We’d shriek with joy and tuck in. 

When granny wasn’t making pizza, we’d drag her off to the best pizza place in town then – Casa Picola.  Just the sight of the menu with all those names: Tia, Maria, Julia, The God Mother…, would drive us insane. Uff. The twitchy-nosed French proprietrix would pause by each table to make sure things were okay, while my brother and I steadfastly ignored everything else but the pizzas in front of us. 

But this was in Bangalore on our summer holidays.  Back in Malluland nobody had ever heard of pizza.  “Nge?”  (Eh?), said the shopkeeper when my mother asked for pizza base.  “Illa.” (Well m’dear lady, we’ve run out of stock, but let me place an order with Harrods London, with whom I have a running account with and procure some for you.  It might arrive next month by container ship fresh from London), he said, when we described it. 

Crestfallen, Mommie dearest decided to make do with what Trivandrum could offer then.  She marched into Milma Dairy and asked for cheddar cheese.  “Cheese illa butter unde”, (Ah cheese.  Cheese, you say?  That lovely thing that was invented in a Bactrian camel’s intestine?  Hmmm… Chweeeeezzze.  Käse.  Fromage.   Somebody stop me), said the man at the counter.  We got the message and left.  We finally found some at Jayaram bakery.  Good old best-in-the-world Amul.  

Back home, Amma followed granny’s recipe to the tee.  Err, except for the blanching, the cream, the tomatoes, the asparagus, mushrooms and cheddar cheese that is.  She’d learnt from Mrs. Krishnamurthy next door that a pressure cooker with sand in it does the same thing as a dabba oven on a stove.  “Yaaay”, we said, and ran to the Guptas’ garden next door, where a pile of sand had been freshly delivered to construct a toilet for Anandavalli, their maid.  We rushed back home, sand in hand, to find that Amma had managed to make a white naan like thing out of maida and was piling it up with tomato puree and oooh…! onions.  She then grated the Amul on the top and after a quick prayer to Melkote Selvanarayana, put a layer of sand at the bottom of the pressure cooker, placed the pizza gingerly on top of it on a plate, and closed the lid. 

Amma had to throw away the pressure cooker after that.  “Aiyo, yenk irkra problems onna renda?” (Wo to be in Ingilaand, drrrrinnnking Ingiliss beerr), she asked Melkote Selvanarayana, as she scraped the melted bakelite handles of the cooker off the stove top and retrieved the incinerated pizza from inside. 

We bought a Bajaj round oven after that.  It would heat everything up nicely to about 40 degrees, but do nothing about melting the cheese on top.  “It’s the cheese, not the oven da kanna”, she’d say as pizza after lukewarm pizza emerged out of the oven with intact layers of grated Amul on the top.  We even tried paneer, which, aside from refusing to melt, also tasted like imported pencil erasers without the pineapple flavour. 

Granny’s dabba oven retired in the early 90s, as did our Bajaj round, after a decade of absolute uselessness.  We now a have fancy microwave-cum-convection-oven-cum-dishwasher-cum-three-piece-orchestra-cum-massage-lady that sadly does nothing for me or the pizza.  And as for Pidsa Hut- Gidsa Hut with all their cheese-filled crusts, oregano-girigano, jalapeno-gilapeno and what not, I have only this to say:  

Fbbthbbp. Give me my melty- crunchy, granny-made Peer Sahib any day. 


WannabeWriter said...

I can imagine your trouble finding Peer Sahib in Malluland those days! I first set eyes on something that resembled a pizza only when hot breads opened up some time when I was finishing school! But granny made food..yumm...just inimitable!

maxdavinci said...

its one post a month but we'll gladly take it!

SJ said...

' We now a have fancy microwave-cum-convection-oven-cum-dishwasher-cum-three-piece-orchestra-cum-massage-lady' You are hilarious!!!

mem said...

yay new post new post. my patti used to call it feeza. and you come to that sagar ya..ill get you patti style fiza. tho they kill with the sauce. we'll go and custom make it. they put it in that sandwich type grill items- so bottom is burnt and top is gooey.

buddy said...

frying pooris in a cooker does strange thigs to it too..
who knew?

post had me rofling and chickling at the screen making ppl around me think im crazy

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

awesome narrative!

Reflections said...

“Aiyo, yenk irkra problems onna renda?” (Wo to be in Ingilaand, drrrrinnnking Ingiliss beerr)"

"We even tried paneer, which, aside from refusing to melt, also tasted like imported pencil erasers without the pineapple flavour."

And tht sand for the maid's toilet

And ur mom taking the name of Melkote Selvanarayana

Absolutely hilarious re...wiping the tears from my eyes variety;-D

Tubelight tht I am, understood wht peersahib meant only when I reached the end of the post;-D.

That was lovely!!!

Smi said...

imported pencil eraser....thats hilarious.

btw Sumi looks cuuuuuuuuuuuuuute. tasted the chinese menu in Udupi.. Peezza othar than idli saambar namge gothirlilave...heegoooo oonta

Sumi said...

ohhh, such a chweet post! yeah, grannies are the best. I remember my lovely paati making butter biscuits for us using the ''sand technique'' love to all the grannies in the world.

Rithish said...

Welcome back to the writing mold bro'. :o) I guess the writer's block is off; eh?

Awesome wording as always.. I almost could taste your granny's pizza whilst sitting right here. :o)

RukmaniRam said...

"Fbbthbbp". i know *exactly* how to make that sound. incidentally, it was the same sound i made to a store bought brownie once.

sanjana said...

finally another post! yaaay :)

kicking.and.screaming said...

Bahahaha what a great stumble upon!

But no, really Sir, what is this Malluland in which they speak Kanada?

Curry Pan said...

unhh escus me madam, melkote selvanarayana spicking. since biker anna saying he has brother, i would guess ungluku ikra problems rendu. ur mom's sooooo cute. poor thing. wat u boys must've put her thro i say. she burnt her precious cooker tryin to make pizza for u! darling lady. tut tut tut. what boys i say.
my paati calls it piss-ah. aarabi, anga inda piss-ah giss-ah yellam vangi thingade de. neeye aathle vethekozhambu panni chaptuko enne?
:D i did too. i made vethekozhambu with peanuts n everything. tough to get tamarind in holland tho.

Cindy/Snid said...

He's back!(your recorded messages are fun- but nothing like your narratives!)

I'm worried though... I am starting to understand your humor :)

Anonymous said...

Great to have a new post to giggle thru :)

And about time too - the kids have injected suitable doses of cammannu daaarling among their peers in a certain Nerd Public School and my gmail tag of Inane-u kelasa is getting a wee bittu inane - but biddu ri, now for fresh pickings and poppings

Anonymous said...

in addition to all I said above: BD, you do look mast magaa - even w/out the dimpuls ;)

Kamini said...

Lovely and charming! So worth the l-o-o-o-n-g wait. Your granny was a real trailblazer!
We also had a cook in the Sumangala mould, all martyred sighs and near-death looks. No doubt from wondering about the strange concoctions she was made to make!

Anu said...

Welcome baaaaaaaaaaack.

I remember days when Amul Cheese was a special treat.

Now - it tates like the eraser you were talking about...

Is Google playing games my word verification is: diatican!!!

Anonymous said...

ROFL! ROFL!! One Granny-made Peer-Sahib with tamta, and extra seeju comin right up! Would you like it mild, medium spacy or Indian spacy saar? You want Majaa-gijaa, Cokeu-Boku or beer-geer on side saar?

Prats said...

what a post after such a long break....
pizza will never be the same for me ever...memories of pineapple flavoured pencil erasor and the sand oven is gonna hit me hard...
you are too much.

Jun said...

I am a "hosba" to this webpage but i had the most awesome laugh with this latest post.
sand in hand just got me all over the place...
super stuff!
hege bartairli...namge nagu...:)

Archana said...

Have started following your blog recently - its lovely!
Hilarious post! Imported rubber, 'pizza after lukewarm pizza' - ROFL!!

Karan said...

My mum used to put noodles on top of some paste with the tonne of veggies... But boss, today I can live off Domino's. Yummmmmm pizza they have.

Java City pizza is also nice. Was nicer when they had buy one get one free...

Bikerdude said...

wannabewriter: Ah hotbreads pizza no? Masaledaar and microwaved. But cheap-ish so yes lovely :)

maxdavinci: Aiyo how sweet of you saarey. WIll try and speed things up (famous last words eh)

SJ, buddy, karthik s, reflections, rithish, sanjana, Anon1& 2, Prats, archana: Blush: Thenks I say :) :)

mem: Oh cammaaaan I say, jest let us go instantly!

Smi: hee hee illa pa nowadays udupi is full maadrannu. I think Sumangala went back and started off one Peer Sahib hotlu there.

Sumi: Thanks! Yes no? Long live grannies of India :)

Rukmani Ram: Bwahaha good it wasnt a marie biscuit :)

kicking& screaming: Err umm.. wha..?

Currypan: Gaaaaaaahahaha :) :) Im just imagining going and asking tulip seller in amsterdam for one mozham of malli poo :P

cindy/snid: Heh heh poor you :) Thanks!

Kamini: Thanks and PS I love means love your blog I say :)

anu: aye what ya, amul is still excellent ok. Now full they have flavours geevours and all. Put it off on one monaco biscuit and eat - aha what an upp-uppu taste. slurp

sthithapragnya: heh heh I want with majjige (buttermilk) and uppinkaayi (pickle)

Jun: Heh you got the entendre eh? I thought it would be my own private joke :P

karan: noodle pizza aha what a lovely. chiness ka chiness aur itaaly ka itaaly. bet it must have tasted awesome though. Aye that buy one get one in java city is gona aa? wail. I loved their khatta-khatta pizzas. Now bitti they wont give means who will buy no?

RukmaniRam said...

@bd: i'm totally in lou with ur inglis

Winnie the poohi said...

Oww you made my mouth water!

Santosh Kumar T K said...

you are a baay/myaan/dood with pizzazz!

Anonymous said...

laughter is the best medicine they say, couldn't agree more, for am sitting at home, sick, and boy did i laugh!! :) hilarious!! :) thank you, thank you!!

Archana said...

I happened to chance across your blog, and I have to say this was quite the read. :)

There is always something extra special about the random recipes grandma's and mom's come up with at home.

- Archana

Karuna said...

Good read!

themartianscientist said...

You have put your mother through so much...aiyo paavam! But please to make pizza in fancyschmancy massage giving oven...louly I say...louly!

Heart of my Home - my Kitchen said...

Absolutely Loved it!! I remember the Pineapple smelling erasers (rather scent rubbers)!

G said...

haha, good post. :)

also, try Jayaram Bakery's raisin buns. with cheese on top.

aandthirtyeights said...

Oh, we had a Gulabi Aunty (your Sumangala equivalent) who used to make Peer Sahibs on said stove oven for us with brinjal and cabbage on it! Scarred, I was scared of pizzas for a long time...

(And the other day on Sun TV Samayal Samayal, there was a lady teaching the world how to bake cake using pressure cooker and sand!)

durga said...

awesome post....first time i stepped in to your post, and you've left me laughing out loud here...tears running on my cheeks out of laughter...
Loved it!!

Tinky Toinkers said...

a friend forwarded your post on south indian weddings (written almost a year ago). super funny.
and i so agree with you, dominoes-shominoes don't hold a candle to home-made pizzas ... or the ones that can be found in udupi hotels across mumbai.

Vijayashree said...

me too.. got a forward from friend (is it thor the same person?) on South Indian Weddings.. its was very funny .. but also realistic.. was impressed by your article and continued to browse through others... 5 -6 posts odide .. commercial street, Bengalur Takies,nimma donut-DL prasanga, peer sahib.. thumba chennagi barithiri...
nimma kannada kuda sakkathaagidie.. odtha odtha nimma fan (beesanige!!) agibittidini...

Anoushka Taraporewala said...

Died laughing, reading of Mallu ShopKeeper's response to your Momma's cheddar search....

Great to have you back, Bikerbaba.

Anonymous said...

BD thanks for writing this time...
loved it.

RustyNeurons said...

wah wah wah... a post after such a long time.
Laughed and laughed.

longblackveil said...

And *applause*....
PS: Your Sumangala Diva-Cook is very Marvin the Paranoid Android-esque. Doug Adams must have put off one visit to your manney sometime and got the idea for his sulky bot. ;)

Shruthi said...

Howlarious. I was wonly lofing and lofing reading (& hearing) all your posts. By the by have you eaten 10 rupees Pidssa next to kanikaparameshwari devasthaana, 8th cross? Not good only. you’ll find wonly tamta in it/on it.
Before I forget, pleeej can you giuv Xerox copy of yuvar right foot-u? I’ll frame it off..

Anjana R said...

this reminds me of the chinna kerosene stove that my dad and uncle used to use OUTSIDE the house to make omlettes since egs were strictly forbidden in the house. :))

Gautam said...

Yen guru - next time bangalorige bandaga ajji maadida pizza thinsthira ? :)


Benarasi Bahu said...

"yummm i say!"

Anonymous said...

Too good..now I am gonna remember this every time I eat pizza :)) Just came across ur blog thru links..

harini said...

Chanced upon ur blog! ur audios were superb! :) ...very funny ...put on more of them

Arch said...

Super cool post...loved reading it...on a break again ??

iz said...

Hmm, just read your post on Woycek. At least you didn't say anything bad about me...

Fark said...

Machi! Great stuff!

Where are you now! waiting for the next post!


Anonymous said...


lav said...

dude...where did you disappear?

PRITI R said...

ossum read :) looking for more.

Anonymous said...

Yum! I liked the post! It made me long for my paati (grandma) and her home cooked food! Sigh..

Nice blog. :)

mentalie said...

suddenly...i'd love some peer sahib too! your granny should patent it. and you should patent that accent.

Nethravathi Prasad said...


I have done nothing but read your blogs the past 2 days. I don't remember laughing so hard for so long! I am a die hard Bangalore fan and love everything abt it and now, everything around me seems twice as beautiful and funny :)
Thank you so much!

Your blogs are a delightful combination of Wodehouse and R.K.Narayan!
I want to pick a favorite one but that's just not possible!

I am now, all set to explore Malleswaram and Cantonment. Being from Jayanagar, that's a herculean task but I'm looking fwd to it :)


It's ME said...

Nice blog.... Enjoyed reading it.... :)

LessThanFerpect said...

You're the best - Godsent, a gift! Oh, how you made me laugh! You poor Mom's cooker and I remembered the old sand-oven too. My mom once baked a birthday cake out of clothes' starch in it - but that's another story. More posts, buddy - I need the fix.

Archana said...

hey...your blogs always make me smile...this one especially reminded me of the the pizzas my mum made at home....:-))))...you must write more regularly...:-)

Senorita said...

I don't remember when I laughed so much... thank you, thank you, thank you...sitting at home with a bad back just now, this is just the thing to cheer me and with seventy more gems to read I think I will do just fine :)

Ashwadhy said...

Pijja and Harolds all in one breath. Nice one.

Christina said...

Congrats on the humorous blog nomination from indibloggers

LG said...

Congratulations on being nominated. I enjoyed reading all your posts esp Peer Sahib :)

And here we go again said...

Hey! this is the first post of urs that i'm reading. Came across it thru another fav blog of mine(Jalsa-Jilpa one). I'm glad i chose this post to read first. I'm from Bengaluru,not in Bengaluru anymore. mention of Casa picola and comparison to homemade pizzas is what i did most of my growing-up days. Miss maading bengaluru.

fra said...

wonderful piece of writing!
that's where i started reading your blog and definitely makes me want to continue!

R.A.Krishna said...

Sorry for this late comment. But I read the Peer Saheb bit only now. Shall read and hear the rest on Friday. Really hilarious! The evolution of ovens at home is also almost replicated in my place. We now have a nice three shelf coil heating variety, (no microwave for my wife) but hardly any time to make the Peer Saheb.
And I do remember going to Casa Picola on Residency Road with the Mrs and the kids. The pizzas there were the best I tasted outside of home. The entire lot of present pizza makers cannot come anywhere near it. Sadly, Casa Picola have closed down the Cunningham road outlet and the Residency Road one is not what it was.

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LessThanFerpect said...

Why are you preventing us from enjoying your writing? "We even tried paneer, which, aside from refusing to melt, also tasted like imported pencil erasers without the pineapple flavour." Pure genius. Please write more - yeh dil maange and all that jazz