Of Archie comics and Hostess Twinkies!

Betty doesn’t act like Veronica and Charlie Brown doesn’t act like Lucy!” said Tom Moore.

Don’t recognise the name? Well, you should – he brought happiness in enormous quantities to a generation of 50’s, 60’s and 70’s kids who pored over his drawings ¬†– of Betty, Veronica and of course, the boy everyone wanted/wanted to be – Archie! What exactly was it that made these characters so attractive to teens the world over? Why did we take sides, strongly partisan in favour of one of the two main girl characters in the comics? Indian girls, brought up in the cloistered environments of those days, were strongly like Betty but wanted to be Veronica! Ronnie was the top of the Maslow need-fulfilment triangle!

Being barely aware of psychology as a science, Maslow was completely unknown to us then. And so we hankered innocently after everything that seemed so easily available – teens with cars (so what if it was only an old jalopy? Most Indian cars of those days made Archie’s falling-to-pieces steed look glamorous in comparison!), easygoing teachers (well, we had a couple of those but they were still “Sirs” and “Ma’ams” and exotic adults, demanding respect if not downright obeisance!), X-ray vision glasses, bullworkers and above all, Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies (these last few being the ads on the last pages of comic books over which we pored with serious concentration!)

Most of us couldn’t afford to buy all the comics so these were carefully hunted down – from friends (begged, traded, borrowed on promise of everlasting friendship!), filched from libraries (with the library’s purple ink stamp being carefully erased with whatever was doing the rounds then as “the best/only way to get the stamp off” brigade – ranging from lime juice to yogurt to Erasex fluid – the bottle being passed around for rapturous sniffing – who knew it ¬†was supposed to be an addictive psychotropic substance??!). Having erased (or so we fondly believed!) all traces of iniquity, these were then given for “binding” – and the proud owner of said bound volume was definitely cock of the walk! And would condescend to lend his bound volume to “select” friends. Or, if he happened to be your older brother, would hide it carefully from untrustworthy younger siblings who, in the spirit of being cock of thing the walk themselves, might lend it out to their friends – woe betide the younger sibling who got caught – he/she ended up envying the early worm which got caught!

Ah well, Betty stayed Betty and Ronnie continued on her heartless journey – no identity confusion there, for sure – one of the things which was so attractive about those characters – they were reflective of our own simpler selves – free from modern angst!

After all that drooling over Twinkies in the comics, when I finally saw them in American stores, they looked most ¬†unappetisingly artificial! And anyway I was craving Indian stuff by then – khatta, meetha, teekha – all the familiar hot, sweet and sour balances of Indian chutneys… like this incredibly simple and completely irresistable, zero fat chutney…

RAW MANGO & CORIANDER CHUTNEY

  • Semi-ripe mango – thothapuris are the best for this – 1 medium sized – washed and chopped any which way. Don’t bother to peel
  • Fresh coriander – cleaned and chopped – 2 cups
  • Green chilies – 1 or 2
  • Tomato – 1 – chunked
  • Jaggery or brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin/jeera seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Lime – optional – depending on the sourness of the mango – 1

Just grind everything up!

Makes a super chutney for dosas or a dip for vegetable sticks or a sauce for frankies or wraps or a sandwich spread.

Or even on Jughead’s hotdogs!