There was a time when mum’s cooking or candies from the store around the corner were havens of childhood fantasies and pleasures that could be recounted for years. From Ghugra to sweet cigarettes, a few familiar faces look back at the guilty pleasures, which are soon becoming the stuff of memories
Mahesh Dattani, theatre person
On Krishna Janmashtami, my sister Padma, would dress me up as little Krishna. She had a flair for drama, which I probably inherited from her. My earliest memory of this festive occasion was when I was six years old! Our mother would make the most delicious sweets, my favourite was called a Ghugra — a kind of fried dumpling with a sweet filling comprising jaggery, dessicated coconut and kismis (raisins). Of course, there would be homemade makkhan as well (B&W pic is of my sister feeding me). Such a simple recipe, I wonder why no one makes it at home anymore. The butter of today doesn’t come anywhere close to the aroma and flavour of makkhan made at home with fresh malai of cow’s milk; delivered at home fresh out of the manufacturers’s udders!
Mahesh Dattani with his sister Padma
Vicky Ratnani, chef
As a kid I had various experiences. Right from street food like Roast Chicken, Kanda Bhajiya, and Vada Pav to Biryani. Street food was a big part of my childhood. We would eat out a lot. My parents would take us to Cream Centre in Chowpatty every Monday, Tuesday and Sunday. We would travel a lot as well, and every time, we would make sure to try the local food.
I have fond memories of food from our outdoor trips, especially of places near Mumbai like Nashik, Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, Alibaug and Goa, among others. I learnt how to eat crabs in Goa. The old Goa of the Rs 80s and Rs 90s was non-commercial. It was cheap, and I have tasted the best fish curries in Goa. Even today, I would like to go back to Goa just try the seafood.
I also remember eating the best Rajma Chawal in Jammu, and the local food of Amritsar and Delhi. All these food experiences influenced me a lot and inspired to become a chef. In school, I would eat everybody’s tiffin. So, the basic flavour and understanding of what’s good and what’s really good — the palate — was trained subconsciously. Long before I learnt how to cook, I learned to eat.
Tisca Chopra, actress
My nani or dadi would feed me Churri, made out of crushed parantha with white butter and powdered jaggery. I have wonderful memories of sitting on the terrace of our house in Punjab in the winter sun. I will make it for my daughter too, once winter sets in.
Shehla Khan, fashion designer
It has to be the Dutch Truffle Cake and Viennese Ice-cream at the Taj. We would go either to Golden Dragon or Sea Lounge, and it would be our weekend treat.
Jitish Kallat, artist
I haven’t ever smoked as a grown up nor have I had any desire to smoke. But as a child I was obsessed with sweet-cigarettes made of mint. Wonder where that obsession came from as my father never smoked too.