Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ingenuity + Perfect Tools = Joy + Satisfaction

Each time i go to this road called Pantheon Road which boasts of the largest number of small eateries i never miss out to grab a bite of the grilled cheese and vegetable sandwich from the vendors out there.Not that i can't prepare that myself at home but my chutneys don't taste as piquant as theirs and no matter how hard i try, i am unable to slice cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes to that perfect thinness/thickness that is a key ingredient of a  delectable and oh ! so ! filling sandwich.
Of course that requires some skill and a lots of practice but observing them while they get busy with their orders and doing their jobs casually in a jiffy chatting with their assistants about mundane matters requires  not only a sincere sense of entrepreneurship but some secret ingredients and definitely some specific tools .

Maybe i am saying this to console myself.As though if i had those tools and the secret ingredient was known to me i would stop being a street food lover and perhaps become the best sandwich maker who might put Balaji or Manoj out of business.Now these two gentlemen can never forget the ever so hungry me who they greet with a smile and offer with great delight all their new varieties of sandwiches. And much to their chagrin i go to them for my standard Vegetable Cheese non grilled but original piquant chutney laced and gently spiced sandwich.

But honestly i was very fascinated with the knife that they use to chop the vegetables into that perfect slice. And to my amazement the best sweets and snacks outlet in town Sree Mithai also has a sandwich corner apart from all types of chats where i noticed the proud seller using the same knife happily cutting roundels of onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, boiled potatoes to the ever increasing order of his plain or grilled vegetable sandwiches.

The lovely cooking shows on Travel and Living channel on TV leave me high and dry when i see Kylie Kwong using a special knife to match her skills while Nigella Feast only makes me more hungry when she uses her bare hands and lots of  i should say erotic sounds from her mouth and whips away to God's glory with her sophisticated kitchen equipments.
Then i try to remember the ever so humble Yan who always said,'' If Yan can cook so can you" and convince myself to keep trying.

 i finally gave up one day and instead ran to Balaji/Manoj , the sandwich maker and asked him to tell me the secret of his chutney and pleaded him to get that special knife for me.
The secret he divulged too quickly and without fuss for which i am grateful to Balaji. But there was a funny glint in his eyes like that of a prankster who knows the outcome already and is laughing within himself and trying hard not to give it away.
Regarding the knife he said that he would have to place an order and that i should come and collect it later.
Judging my sincerity he explained that the knife is made to order and it actually is a ''hashhaw'' blade.
Trusting him to get the knife i left after having my fill and reminding him once again that i shall be back for my hashhaw blade next evening.He nodded and got busy and i thought i have achieved partial success as i was already loaded with the chutney recipe while the blade was on it's way to help me prepare that perfect slice of cheese vegetable sandwich.
That knife, the hashhaw blade i came to know soon enough is the toothed and jagged Hacksaw blade which is made toothless and sharp to make it perfect for the job.
Necessity rightly they say is the mother of invention.Man has known that since time immemorial.And while i munch at those lovely sandwiches just when i am too hungry to think anything or see anything it is strange how i drifted to my favourite tool that i cannot do without.In fact i am often afraid of misplacing it or losing it. And hence that favourite tool is always tucked away safely as if it was a priceless piece of jewellery.i remember misplacing it once and how every nook and corner of the house was ransacked to retrieve it which left the house in such disarray that it took me a whole tiresome day to put things back to where they belong.
For that tool is just the perfect weight and size to do what i need it for.Just like the hacksaw blade which is indispensable for these sandwiches so is this highly utilitarian tool of mine which was originally meant to be a bottle opener.

Broken at the usable end but not on purpose but only because of wear and tear and still having a strong head this piece of tool is indispensable for what i do with thrown away fused bulbs.What i do is nothing original but how i do it is what i am so proud of. i know many of my friends have tried it but have given up just like how i gave up on those sandwiches. And just like how i still run to Balaji/Manoj for my perfect sandwich so do my friends come to me each time they want the used bulb object d art and they never ask me for my tool to try it for themselves because they know that only i have perfected that art of the perfect pressure with the help of this tool that sees their bulb in full piece without any damage to the glass or to the holder but made beautiful enough to hang them around the house.

Why i had to tell all this is because this post is a prequel to my next post which should be the sequel of my earlier post ' My Collections-I '. i somehow felt like sharing all that i do for the simple reason that i feel happy doing these things and i know if it makes me happy it will surely make others happy too.In a way this post of mine should be considered to be a tribute to all the street food chefs , their indigenous tools and secret spices.Together they have not only made eating out fun but also given us satisfaction and loads of joy.
And so has my tool kept me satisfied for the last twenty years ever since i found a good use of it as i picked it up from the trash can into which my husband had thrown it after it was broken and was considered unfit for any use.

i just thought that since i talked so much of the sandwiches and that special blade in this post of mine that it is only fair to introduce the great chefs and their best.So in manner of sequence:
                                                                  Balaji and Manoj
                                                           Manoj and his favourite tool
                                          Ready with his ingredients and tools including a spare
                                           First butter and a generous layer of green chutney
                                            cucumber rounds sliced to that perfect thickness
                                                     followed by onions, boiled potatoes
                                                last of the vegetables-tomatoes placed on top
                             Cheese gratings -amount optional-top bread ready with butter and chutney
                                                             Dash of the secret spice
                             Ready to be sliced into convenient bite sized squares with that special knife
                                                     Sliced into 9 equal square pieces
                                     Boxed and ready for takeaway with tomato ketchup satchets

i know i meant this post to be something else but it wrote itself. i had not intended it to center round sandwiches but sadwiches stole it's way into my post and so did Manoj with his hasshaw blade and his ingenuity.So all i can say for the time being is BON APETIT...till my next post.


  1. wow,it simply speaks volume of ur range n depth of interests.On such a seemingly small matter u have nicely brought value n importance of small tools n ordinary work.Ur effort of taking photo of Mr Balaji n Manoj is simply appreciable.Keep it up,GOD of small things....

  2. I love the chutney sandwiches of Mumbai and yes, I have an old favorite roadside chef who puts an extra dollop of chutney since I like it teekha!

  3. Let me go wipe the drool and I shall be back to comment.Slrrrppp. Back. I do not know where Pantheon Road is, but I can just sense the anticipation you go through when you wait for the magic to unfold. I hope the hacksaw he is using is not oiled.As for the part on the knives. I have to tell you, that with time my wife and I have become so good with two stainless steel chef knives. These are heavy and have seen Batali use similar knives on his shows.Our cost a fraction of his brand line items of course. Lovely post Shivani.
    Here is a href=" link to one of my posts on street food made to perfection. If you have been to Calcutta you will appreciate this. One of the street foods that I loved in Chennai was from the idli kadai (shop)on the corner near Sri Krishna Sweets in T.Nagar. They used to have the best korma. Yummm. Not sure if they are still there. I think I can do a hundred posts on awesome stuff available on streets. My kudos to artists like Manoj and Balaji and a narrator like you for a sumptous post.

  4. That’s a very nice appetizing post. It was definitely food for thought and am planning to make my own 'cheese vegetable sandwich' this weekend (thanks to those photos showing how it's done). I too have had similar experience with eating joints solely making veggie sandwiches within the narrow alleys of Dadar- Mumbai, during my schooling and college days. 'Hashhaw' blades were used even then as I recollect. For your information, for its mere strength and its length, a hacksaw blade comes more handy after its actual use in metal workshops. Your post says it all.

  5. @CV Thank you for your gracious visit...only thing would not be satisfied with once in a while...will be extremely happy if u make it often.
    And hahaha! God of small things? Who me ? mmmm Kabhi nahin...

  6. @Sharmila...Hey welcome!and thanks for reading.
    First would like thank you more cause u sparked my interest in stadiums with ur post about your visit to Munich...FC Bayern...remember? i was happy to refer to u in my post later when i did my voluminous post on SA stadiums.Have linked you in my post.
    Yeah coming to sandwiches the ones i eat is not very teekha but have to trust Balaji about cashews and peanuts added to grinding on sil batta cause even when i did that on my mixie i feel it sure did lack something.i am still trying...
    i know i am quite boring but i'd love more of ur visits if u can manage it. :)

  7. @LEB WHOA! i love that. i have lots to do and know now.
    b) that blog of urs on street food
    c)Chk out that idli kadai at T.Nagar and remember to try out the Korma if that kadai still exists.
    Pantheon road is near Egmore and it is now famous for it's Cotton street where even designers shop from the pavement and these eateries where people like me sit in the car and are sinfully happy.
    Loved every bit of ur conversation and thanks a lot :)

  8. @Tandarin thank you so much for this and other.
    Yeah that's a good idea for having a sandwich weekend.
    i believe that the hacksaw blade has been there for a long time but this time relating to it as an ingenuous tool for sandwiches or anything else was easier because it reminded me of my own favourite tool.
    Watch out for my next post and u will know it all.:)

  9. I am still drooling ..... I feel like I have to make a trip to Chennai to see your beautiful nursery and savor these sandwiches.
    Your topics are so diverse and your writing adds so much flavor to a simple dish - hats off to you. Really enjoy reading your posts.
    And I have to ask this. That green table cloth under your prized tool, is that your artwork?

  10. @Preeti thank you so much for giving me too many credits.U guessed it right.Yeah that green table cloth is my artwork too but from a leftover material.Loved the fact that u noticed.Thanks for appreciating :)

  11. quite a foodie post.............i wonder why u didn't treat me with these sandwiches...i bet i would have helped u with aashoo bhaiya's tools...

  12. my versatile queen yr sandwich was awesome

  13. @Yajnaseni awww! sorry baby galti se mistake ho gaya.Ok next time i promise...evening on the terrace with sandwiches and coffee :)
    Thanks for reading through.

  14. u loved the sandwiches!.Happy about that.Maybe i should now do more food posts or for the time being u can chk out LEB'S blog as mentioned above.
    Thanks for reading :)

  15. Those sandwiches are tasty alright!! and loved that comment on God of Small Things, I hope Balaji and Manoj get to read this blog someday .......

  16. @Aakaash thank you sonna and yes loved that comment too.
    A little bit of effort required on my part about that hope although i feel they would be more delighted if something like this is done on newsprint.
    Blogs are just blogs and news is something na.:)