If you have ever been a student in India you have probably had these two experiences- living in a hostel and having mess food in that hostel. The latter experience proves to be both nightmarish and life changing for most people.
After battling with mess food, people not only start appreciating “ghar ka khana”, but they can also give Sherlock tough competition in knowing all the cheap eateries around, become expert at budget management and often emerge as fledgling cooks themselves!
Here are some of those mass-destructive, survival skill- inducing weapons from the mess which all of us have fond memories of-
1. Sodafied rice
While cooking the rice, mess workers add a secret ingredient called “baking soda” to it. It kills two birds with one stone, makes people eat less rice by making them feel bloated, and actually makes their tummy grow. Such a win win situation!
2. Yellow water aka daal
Right next to the vat of rice one would generally find a dam of stagnant yellow water, which is supposedly daal (lentil soup). With sheer brilliance, the cooks in the mess can procure daal without adding even a grain of lentil in it. It is also extremely healthy as harmful ingredients like salt, sugar, or spices are never added to it, though it’s sometimes garnished with red chilli powder to make the colour pop.
3. White water- curd
Almost all Indian hostel messes are very cautious about the health of students and try to erase all the bad effects of outside food by providing curd. To make it hasslefree they eleminate the heavy portion, keeping only the white water for ease of consuming.
4. Rotis that can break a skull if aimed right
Mess rotis are works of wonder. They can be used as weapons to break skulls, if aimed right, or hands if you can ask an unsuspecting enemy to tear it into pieces for you. You can also use it to impress your crush by trying break it yourself, or worse, chew it. This multipurpose chapati comes in all shapes and sizes except round.
5. Chicken made of bread
In most chicken dishes from the mess, like chilly chicken or chicken manchurian, the chicken is made from either bread or dollops of corn flower. This strong step towards equality makes sure that even vegetarians can experience the taste of chicken.
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6. Sabzi made of unidentifiable veggies and aloo
More often than not veg curries in hostels are made with unidentifiable objects…err… vegetables and aloo. Aloo is your omnipresent bestfriend in the mess. It is present everywhere and in everything. In cauliflower curry you may not find cauliflower but you cannot escape potatoes!
7. Idli and dosa made from leftover rice
Whenever there is a suplus amount of rice left the night before, every hostelier knows to expect idli or dosa the next morning. In the big churners this rice is mashed into a paste bringing out the inner essence of it, and the need of adding other ingredients is covered in a healthy and adequate way.
8. Added nutrition with lizards, cockroaches, spiders
Since mess food is generally devoid of detrimental ingredients, nutritional value is often added to the food by the direct sacrifice of willing lizards, cockroaches and spiders. Big games like rats also make cameo appearance every once in a while.
9. Scorched breads and pidgeon eggs
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and the mess knows it. It helps build character, and to help it help us build characters mess breakfasts often consist of hurdles like scorched black breads accompanied by eggs from pidgeons and other birds. Though they are claimed to be chicken eggs for the fear of any Hitchcockian scenario.
10. Thankfully, despite the nightmare food items that our mess consists of, Maggi was our ultimate saviour
Maggi is the Satan to mess food’s God. It shows us the guilty pleasure of late night munching, rewrites the definition of morning cuppa and in general keeps us going in hostels. Oh what would we do without maggi!
Have “ghar ka khana” while you can, a life of misery awaits beyond home!