Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food for the distraught

“Found a bolt in chicken dopiaza”<EOM>Tony
“Nine safety pins found in Navarathna Kurma Sharma
“Today’s Roomali Roti sent to Thakur Leather UpholsteriesSecurity
“No Chicken Fried Rice today. All gone in smoke”<EOM>Food committee

If these sound familiar to you then you are part of the brotherhood who suffer from canteen food sucks syndrome. The sufferings such people go through dwarfs the regular pains of an IT guy like low download speeds or password lockouts. I personally know several martyrs who had to be operated because of undigested Idli’s stuck in their appendicitis or folks who have gone into frenzy after having Chicken Jalfrezi.

Jeez, some of the items served in canteen easily violate the Geneva agreement on prescribed food standards for Software Engineers. For example I have seen the shocking case of a dosa which was made elliptical instead of circular. A clear violation of Law 32/C of Dosa standards Organization (DSO)!!

Canteen food is the most talked about thing in IT companies or basically any campus based firm. The canteen is after all the breeding ground for many of our creative engineers besides the bacteria’s. Infact most of the wildlife photo enthusiasts I know take their best snaps in office canteens. People are actually happy if they manage to find one of the rare insects in the Sambhar that would test the best features of their SLR cameras! No wonder why these wannabe photographers hurry up to the canteen during lunch hour, after all the early bird gets the worm. ;-P

But do these folks who complain have any idea about the PDS ration rice that used to be supplied to government employees. Vintage grandfathers and grandmothers used to queue up in one of those shops to get the quota or rice and kerosene which they were entitled to in the prime of their youth. Those times in the 80’s housewives competed fiercely with each other to find rice from the stones. The stones were then packed and send in lorries to huge construction projects like the famous Narmada dam which was built exclusively on stones from Ration Rice…Food quality has actually drastically improved over the years because we don’t anymore receive grains from the USA.

Though it’s not the same everywhere like my office canteen, where the Spanish Paella, the Italian Pizza and Mexican spring rolls come from the Yinchuan province of China…It is almost impossible to buy anything non-Chinese in this part of the world. I pity the global Chinese tourists who can’t buy anything coz even authentic French wine has the label ‘Made in China’!!

Well coming back to the pet peeve of canteen food, I agree it is sometimes bad and sometimes misconstruing too...My mallu friends don’t particularly like Aloo Gopi or Kadai chicken (they can’t believe people actually pay for spoilt chicken)!! And for my north Indian friends it’s not exactly a cozy code to pronounce 'Kozhikode chicken biriyani' nor do they like 'Anupam Kheer'!! I remember myself staying away from ‘Kesari Bath’ for several months due to obvious reasons...

It is unfortunate that we don’t enjoy the food in corporate canteens like in college where having hostel food was an adventure everyday …You know those programs in AXN where they ask people to eat beetles and Buddies!! They are a cakewalk!!

The food quality in hostels could be best described as lethal.
There even used to be a board outside the hostel canteen which served as a reminder.

“All products made here are tested on hostel inmates before allowing any guinea pig consumption.”

Am sure even the most hardcore inmates in Guantanamo would not survive the ordeal. Some of the things they used to serve in hostel were virtually unrecognizable and the cooks, they were masters at making fish curry without fish...And we realized why after a few months when the cooks were getting healthier and the inmates tuned into ishant sharmas. The good part is I don’t remember anyone who had fallen sick in my college hostel. Actually most of them did not even manage to stand up after a bite.

Well compared all that food our office canteens sound like ambrosia. But then we are IT guys and not supposed to be happy with what we have got…We love to bemoan over little things and for us cribbing over the food is part of our job that motivates test engineers to find bugs in code and quality engineers to achieve CMM level 5 standards.

For every bad meal we have had in canteens we know we have had worse before. But then this is our guilt buyout to have a burger or a pizza from one of the international chains…Btw which reminds me of something for which I still haven’t found an answer…

“Have you ever seen a Pizza Hut which was actually a HUT??’ ;-O


Anonymous said...

The Food Quotient of hostels were amazing enough way to reduce weight. But with time, we get used to it and even expect it. The circle of life, maybe?

Destination Infinity

Neena Padayatty said...

Yet to get a taste of non mum-made menus on a regular basis...thanks for that "tasty" preview :D.

My brother claims to have survived on that five rupee Parle-G when at college.Now he recoils at the sight of biscuits! it the badly-made food that boosts the "Big Chef"?

Anonymous said...

>>“All products made here are tested on hostel inmates before allowing any guinea pig consumption.”<<

jj said...

“All products made here are tested on hostel inmates before allowing any guinea pig consumption.” Too good!

Lizard in sambhar, baby cockroach which I mistook for raisins in a Bun, I have my share of woes too!

Nice post :)

Hari said...

LOL man, you rock!! I can't help but laugh uproariously at all this.

Well, my college-canteen offers kinda-decent food, although my college isn't even the tenth of CET. :D

Btw, I've eaten from the 'Infopark' canteen @ Kochi; even from lots of Dhabas near technopark. The food rocked! Seriously man.

Think you're a tad too punctilious, coz you're a pro cook yourself!

Do remember to let me taste some recipe of yours when you hit town. :D

VIDYA said...

ahh nice post.... but bad timing for me ... been sick from bad food all weekend. and it had to happen when i got 3 days off. :(

i ve been hearing abt IT companys' 'rocking' food..

Kesari Bath! LOL LOL

Abhi said...

I'm in a train reading this post n ppl around me thought i was watching some comedy movie in my mobile, coz i couldn't control my laugh's. Awesome post. Loved the warning outside the hostel mess. Anyone reading your post will know why it's called a MESS. I hope u grant me copyrights for pasting that statement outside my hostel canteen. Even if you don't i'll steal it like all software pirates. Loved the food names. I'm suffering from bad food, but my weight doesn't go down one kilo- reason, the huge variety of potato curry's that the cook makes in my mess. I've had potato seven days a week in various solid, liquid and gaseous(ahem, you know from where) forms from that dude's handi. :)

Anonymous said...


Well, I think college canteens deliberately practice non-vegetarianism! My office canteen seemed to go on the same track a few years ago when someone found a cockroach hanging on a watermelon contendedly ;). Now they've got themselves a new caterer who's deliberately depriving us of the "free" non-veg entitites!

ancientmariner said...

the foodie mishaps in college actually helped I eat anything and everything..

mathew said...

@Destination Infinity
really its the irony of our life..;-)

Oh i was never a big fan of biscuits except the bourbon ones..But i like cookies..

Btw the chef started working due to circumstances, but apparently loves it now!:-D


LOL!! jeez that would have tasted...well i dont wanna describe that!!;-P

I studied in a different college in the first year, so its a tale from a different place..

And ofcoz am not punctilious about the food I have but yes about other matters!!

And calling me a Pro-cook..thanks for that though I cant stop laughing at myself!!;-D

Glad to know u enjoyed the post..

Thank you..
Yeah we do get rock hard idlis!!;-D

Thanks a lot for the generous compliment..
And you have no idea how much Potato I have consumed in the last one year..just imagine its the rice for the Germans!!;-D

Thankfully my body accepts any kind of food..;-P

Seems like this post is giving me a nightmare with comments..gory tales indeed!!;-D

Bingo with me..We are made of tough roti types..survives under extreme conditions ;-D

silverine said...

Sigh...did you have to rake up the memories ? Just when I thought I had got rid of them...barf!

Rahul Nair said...

Hmm... the mess, it was a place where I payed for the foood but didnt touch it... not because of the excess of money... but because i found out that the thattukada in the corner had lesser number of flies in the chutney..

Office food is heaven compared to that...

Superficial Gibbering prater said...

"Infact most of the wildlife photo enthusiasts I know take their best snaps in office canteens"

LOL....looks like achayan is in top form..much like one middle-fingered assasin from Lanka :)

Usha said...

you just reminded me of college hostel days. I remember some of us going for dinner at the mess during a power cut, but carrying a torch along, and all of us taking turns to check if anything not-so-edible is hiding in the rice or curries.

and yeah, you just said it.. canteen food is something all of us IT folks crib about all the time.. Funny how we were never too much bothered about it during the hostel days when it was much more worse.

Mishmash ! said...

Idli stuck in appendicitis !! LOL :))Loved this post....loved your play with words :)I stayed in a pakka vegetarian hostel in chennai ...even egg was not served but i got some good size bizarre non-veg food a couple of times in my sambar, along with brinjal and tomato !!!

Btw, thought of you y'day morning while watching news on TV....there was a mention of Sarkozy and the first thing that came to my mind was your "sarkozhi-kozhi" number!!! :))) Leaving long lasting impressions....good quality for a successful writer, so you re one for sure :)

Deepti said...

'And we realized why after a few months when the cooks were getting healthier and the inmates tuned into ishant sharmas" ROFL :)

I know we IT kinds have the habit of complaining .. no matter what :)
But sometiems the comments written in the food register do make your day ..

scorpiogenius said...

“All products made here are tested on hostel inmates before allowing any guinea pig consumption.”

wow, mathew, you've just made the point clear in the best possible way!

couldn't agree more. :)

mathew said...

hey kidilam post that one..I think I had misseed that from your archives...

Thattukada ennu paranju kothipikaathei..;-P

@Superficial Gibbering prater

hahhaa...u guys really had a tough time..!!

Thank you!!:-D
Sarkozhi avudeyum ethiyyoo..;-D
oops..btw who takes our food in a vegeterian hostel!!

Our food register should be the guide of known expletives in the world!!! ;-p


Priyankari said...

As usual very humorous post! This is truly a burning issue! ;)

ap said...

Uff....I thought bad food was synonymous with our Company canteen..Seems its same in whole of India....:)
But I like all those things thats served here (Deutsch)canteen....
Be it Cordon bleu,Schnitzel,Steaks,Skewers..or the simple pommes frites rocks here....

VMJ said...

I truly believe that its time that mathew took his rightful place among the high echelons of mallu bloggers. Not a word of the writings is a drag after all this time, unlike that of several others'. Mathew doesnt seem to need any effort on his part to create flowing always engaging comedy and there rarely is any of those painful repetitions which has started creeping in the writings of many of the gods and godesses of the mallu blogosphere.
amazing dude.

Unknown said...

had me laughing out loud. You have a nac with acronyms.. DSO rocked!!

mathew said...

thank you..


Thanks for the appreciation..pakshe i dont aspire to stand on any higher pedestal or 'rightful place'...Seriously am more than happy to keep blogging a simple thing.Maybe your way of thinking is different.After all our concepts are completely different with regards to many things if you remember the thing with needing an "ego" and your arguments on it!;-P
I think you understand what i mean..

thank you..