Please can I eat the meluka?

Just sat down to enjoy a plate of sev puri at arguably the best chaat place south of the Vindhyas (not sure that it could be North too!) – Gangotri in Chennai and there was a commotion at the table next to mine. Now this table had two little kids – aged about four and two years. In 2014 – this is a recipe for disaster more often than not! Any parent who’s over 40 and who’s brought up a kid or two in the 80’s, 90’s or the early 21st century will agree with me on this! 

We’ve all faced bratty children (someone else’s!) at restaurants, theatres (i will never understand how parents bring children below the age of 7 or 8 at least to watch movies which are NOT meant for children) – and no, I’m not talking “A” rated movies – just the regular “U” ones – where kids are bored and scream their heads off as soon as their tub of popcorn is over – they seem to be everywhere! We all have favourite horror stories that we’ve encountered in all these places – my own reading is it’s the parents who are the true horrors! Our children, of course, never behaved LIKE THAT! All this leads me to suspect that parents have very short memories for their own childrens’ tantrums! Mea culpa too!

I do not remember the tantrums at all – there must have been some! But back to my today’s tale. One of these kids – the two- year old – had chucked the mother’s keys under the sofa seat they were on. This was a diner type arrangement with MANY sofa seats ranged against the wall with no gaps in between. Two of the staff had to shift an entire row of tables and their corresponding sofas and every diner in these rows had to shift their seats elsewhere till the keys wer found. Bad, you think? What happened next was so shocking that I couldn’t quite credit it – the lady – obviously the mother of the two (there was no other adult with them), took the keys from the waiter and walked off without a whisper of an apology to anyone there – waiters or other guests and not a word of thanks to the two waiters who had taken so much trouble to retrieve her keys! NOW do you agree with me about the parents over forty???

Trying to get over it by remembering happier incidents! 

Two tiny four-year olds – the best of friends – walk solemnly into a restaurant with the parents of one of them (Archana) and Vinaya with us! Solemn – as befits the outing – best company manners and all that – they sit down carefully. The waiter comes over and asks them what they’d like to order. Arch, who’s been to this particular restaurant earlier – knows the drill: “Could I have the ‘meluka, please?” Vinaya, deciding that whatever her friend likes she is sure to like, also adds “I’ll also eat the meluka”! The waiter looks puzzled till I explain – ‘meluka’ is “menu card” with a lisp! Vin, having decided this is a new and exotic dish, wants to eat the same! By the way, neither had learnt to read yet – but restaurant visits were, as I’ve mentioned – solemn affairs requiring proper protocol and company manners!!

The dish they finally ordered – after all this deliberation – was a pumpkin soup – a favourite even today.


  • Pumpkin (yellow) – peeled and cut into cubes – 2 cups
  • Onion  – chopped – 2 tbsp
  • Cashewnuts – 6-8
  • Butter – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Coriander – chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Cinnamon powder – 1 pinch or 1 small sliver of cinnamon – 1/2 cm
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Milk – 1/2 cup

Place the butter and onions together in a pan.  Cover and heat on a low flame till onions turn translucent. Add the pumpkin, cashewnuts, cinnamon sliver (if using) and coriander. Add a 1/4 cup of water and cook till tender. Cool and whizz in the mixer to get a very smooth puree. Strain if necessary. Put back in the pan, add the salt and pepper and enough water to make a thickish but still pourable consistency soup. Bring to the boil ( if you’re using cinnamon powder, add now) and switch off. Pour one or two tbsp of milk in each bowl and then pour the soup over the top. Garnish with coriander / parsley or basil and serve immediately  with a spicy bread. – focaccia goes very well. If you want to omit the butter altogether, just add all the ingredients together in the pan except the milk. Proceed in the same way.

And don’t eat the meluka!!!