Gastronomy in a Blytonian World

by Ashish

I grew up on a steady diet of Enid Blyton. Enid Blyton, you blighted young readers who are not aware of her existence, was an English writer who wrote stories for children. As cathode ray television to a 50 inch plasma screen, so is Enid Blyton to JK Rowling.

Actually, that’s not a fair comparison, since a 50 inch plasma screen is demonstrably better than a CRT. And while I haven’t read or seen even a single one of the factory line fantasies that JK Rowling has churned out, I refuse to consider for even a second the proposition that they are as good as the stuff that good old Enid used to produce as a matter of course. So there.

Now, the reason I mentioned the inventor of Noddy is because those books were chockfull of settings in which children ate stuff. All kinds of stuff. They would have eggs and bacon for breakfast, for instance. Or they would have scones and crumpets at tea time. Cakes, treacle puddings and sandwiches would make regular appearances, while lemonade was practically a central character.

For kids whose idea of a treat at breakfast was idlis instead of upma, this was a tantalizing new world. It was a world that could be glimpsed at in exotic cookbooks that lay mostly unused on bookshelfs, but could  never be experienced in a restaurant in Pune. Pune’s most exotic gastronomic offering back then used to be a non-vegetarian sizzler.

Things have changed now, though, and how. Restaurants now routinely serve a salmon ravioli with a herb sauce. Boulangeries exist in Pune. Supermarket aisles are filled to the brim with bottles of HP sauces, XO sauces, fish sauce and teriyaki sauce. And I don’t care how juvenile I make myself seem, teriyaki has to be the funniest product name in the world.

Well, second funniest. The funniest will always and forever be the Skoda Laura.

Anyways, the point is, it is now possible to replicate, in my very own kitchen, each of the dishes that Enid Blyton described so lovingly in her many books. Why, I can make scones at home now, if I like.

Except, as always, reality is never quite as good as imagination. A rasher of bacon on a plate is exactly as good, and maybe better, than I thought it would be. But a scone is a nonsensical no-starter when pitted against a Kayani Shrewsbury biscuit. A roly-poly pudding is perhaps the most evocatively christened dish of all time, but it’s nowhere near as awesome as it sounds.  And a leg of lamb with rosemary and baby potatoes is a hunk of cold, dry meat that shreds all too easily, accompanied by small potatoes that have been par boiled. And don’t even get me started on a steak and kidney pie or a plate of the apparently world renowned fish and chips.

Long story short, all those glorious British dishes sound way better than they taste. And to find this out after a decade of imagining how they might tingle my taste-buds is just downright cruel.

But hey, the good lord always balances things out. Britain isn’t devouring  BLT sandwich or plates of eggs and bacon anymore– they are gulping down a dish they like to call balti chicken. And their national dish? Chicken tikka, apparently.

Karma, I suppose.