One couldn’t stop grinning...
This, after having noticed that a daily glossy broadsheet had devoted sizeable column space for a hastily-assembled compilation of the city’s most popular Irani cafes and bakeries. It went on to hail its menu, and its rustic charm, and why such spaces were important and integral to the city. Pray, why the sudden love? News of a popular café shutting down had hit headlines across city publications. Then, a few weeks later, as Navroze approached, we witnessed another round of hallelujahs to the Brun-Maska, Kheema-Pav and the other landmarks.
This, coming from a section of the press fed on gazillion food experts who for the rest of the year, choose to skip such coverage in favour of the glitz and glamour of five-star restaurants, world cuisine, and their aped versions that continue to masquerade in our city’s foodscape. This arm of our city’s heritage is often overlooked for the stardust and soufflé that come with the opening of every new glitzy restaurant every week.
We aren’t saying that this isn’t a good thing for these treasured cafes, or for the city’s rich culinary heritage, for that matter. More publicity is always welcome, especially when it’s got to do with such forgotten spaces that are being phased out for umpteen reasons, by the hour. A similar scenario is echoed with the city’s seasonal love affair during Ramzan; tours are conducted with gusto, everyone from food channels presenters stuffing their faces with Seekh Rolls to online magazines and travel rooting for Bhendi Bazar’s Nalli Nihari and Barah Handi make a beeline to this fascinating food district.
Having followed this beat for years, it’s interesting to note how everyone jumps on to the bandwagon to glorify its rich culinary history only when a festival draws near or the cuisine / community is in the news (read: Bhendi Bazar’s redevelopment or closure of Irani cafés). Your guess is as good as ours about dekkos for the rest of the year.
Once during a chat with an owner of a popular Irani café in the city, he chuckled about these seasonal reminiscences, remarking, tongue firmly in cheek, how cafes and bakeries were the go-to place when a reporter was hungry (and desperate) for a sound byte on the city.
And, as the buzz around news of another Irani café shutting wades through the city, it remains to be seen how long the news stays hot – just like the kadak chai and Brun-Maska that these charming spaces are known for, among other delights.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day