Monday, May 23, 2011
Frontier Mail then
Today called The Golden Temple Mail
The Interior of First Class Air Conditioned Compartment---many Memories of Summer Vacations with the Girls are linked to this!!
This is a "Coupe" in AC First Class---one Sudhir and I usually take when we travel without the Children
Today we met Sayali's In Laws for Lunch---so it was the six of us---Gita and Suresh,Sayali and Kartik and Sudhir and me---all true blue Foodies!!We were discussing various types of Culinary Recipes when the topic of Railway Food cropped up!!!The British brought the Railways to India and along with it emerged a new Cuisine"Railway Recipes"---mainly Food that was cooked in the Train Kitchens and in the Railway Canteens at various Stations.
As expected Lunch turned out to be deliciously heavy and an afternoon Siesta was a must---given the sultry pre-Monsoon Heat---and that was when I dreamt of the old days---when Trains was the way to travel!!My father was allowed a subsidised Pass for the First Class as a Government Servant of the Category he belonged to-----and those days the entire Bogey would be at our disposal.The Bogey had four wide Leather Berths---stuffed with Horsehair---and two similarly stuffed Leather Sofas,two straight backed Chairs and a Marble topped Table---all of these screwed to the floor to keep them steady in the swaying Train---with a large well equipped attached Bathroom as well!!During the Summer Months the Railways would provide us with huge Iron Boxes with Ice Blocks in it---placed directly under the Fans overhead to cool the Air in the Bogey.I loved sitting next to the Windows watching my Country changing as the Train traversed through different Terrains-----the stark shale Hills or the "Bihad" of The Chambal in Central India being most thrilling---because way back then it was Dacoit (Outlaw)Territory and Trains being looted during their Passage through it was a common occurence!!!Luckily we escaped unscathed---but an element of lurking danger was omnipresent!!
Each Train had it's own Kitchen Car----and the Food served was unique to the Railway Style.Their Mutton Curry called "The Railway Mutton" always tasted exactly the same---a simplistic mix of Onions,Ginger-Garlic Paste,Tomato Puree and Turmeric,Coriander-Cumin and Red Chilli Powders being the only Spices used along with Ghee and Salt---but the taste still lingers on my tongue!!We'd be served at certain Stations--- crisply uniformed Bearers carrying Napkin covered Trays to each Bogey along with Bone China Crockery and Silver Plated Cutlery.They'd set out our Meal on the Marble topped Table and and we'd eat in style---feeling like Royalty!!Breakfast would be scrumptous too---Eggs,Bacon,Sausages or Ham as well as Porridge,Toast and Jam---accompanied by freshly brewed Pots of Tea and glasses of Fresh Milk----Heaven would be just a sigh away!!The Railways also offered fabulous Roasts---Lamb,Goat,Duck or Chicken--literally cooked to perfection with fresh Vegetables and freshly baked Bread and pats of Butter----fresh supplies were picked a couple of Stations earlier and cooked to keep the Meals tasting wonderfully appetising and wholesome---besides it always was Organic Produce---and that added to the taste!!All this Food would be cooked on Coal Fired Agas----the wonderful British Cooking Range----and perhaps that added a further smoky flavour to the Cuisine!!
As we progressed from entire Bogeys to Compartments we also got through Trains with Dining Cars---accessible even when the Train was in motion.The Food and the Taste however remained constant--only Gas Ranges replaced the Coal Fires!!This brought along further hazards of Fire spreading in the Train---the danger of Gas leaks led to many fatal accidents---finally closing the Kitchen Compartments on the Trains---leading to an extinction of tasty fresh Food for the Passengers!!Since our Girls were young we've either been carrying our own Pic Nic baskets----if not that, then ordering and eating Food that gets loaded at certain Stations----and if our Luck holds that Food turns out to be good!!!The last time I travelled by Train was in 1997----since then i've heard that the situation is 'comme ci comme ca" neither here nor there----and the finger licking taste of the British Raj has finally been wiped out of the Railway Kitchens forever!!