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Most amazing meal you've had in someone's home


Fat Guy
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Describe the best, most unusual, most memorable, or otherwise superlative meal you've had in someone's home.

For me it was a meal hosted by a couple in Manhattan who are world gourmet travelers. They collect recipes from Michelin three-star-type places, sometimes getting personal instruction from the chefs. They then recreate these dishes -- and lots of them -- with frightening accuracy in their impressive home kitchen. If you were ever wondering who buys those monogrammed plates on the way out of places like Pierre Gagnaire, it's these people. Your Gagnaire dish will be served, without fail, on Gagnaire plates, etc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My mom used to spend a few days drying ducks for Peking Duck on New Year's Eve. Scrumptious. SHe would make the little pancakes, brown sauce, cut some scallions, and the duck was usually just an appetizer! After the duck came loads of sauteed shrimps, rice, sometimes sukiyaki, tons of food. And her chinese style fried chicken on my birthdays was a real treat too! not the fanciest food, but comfort food deliciously prepared.

mike

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Probably also need a best fictional meals you haven't had in someone's home thread, to cover Rear Window and such.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Any meal prepared by SF Chronicle columnist Marlena Spieler. With over thirty cookbooks under her ample belt, she improvises everything as she goes along. Her meals couldn't have menus because every dish, by the time it reaches the table, is liable to have been transformed into something else. In other words, all her published recipes are merely progress reports. She could never be allowed to compete in "Ready Steady Cook" -- all the suspense would go out of it.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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“………In New York, London, and Paris, he had dined in some of the fanciest homes, in the most fashionable areas, with some of the world’s most reputed hosts and hostesses. Even in the most modest of circumstances in India he found that the generosity seemed to surpass that of the west. Was it because people had less they gave more? Was it a sort of over-compensation for the poverty of the majority of its people? He would never forget the ease with which a couple had given a seated dinner for forty people in the heart of the jungle in Madhya Pradesh. Every article including the food and cutlery had been transported several hundred miles by jeep from their home, specifically for the dinner. The hunting lodge had been freshly painted for the party. The neighboring villagers had come to decorate the compound with strands of flowers and handmade cloth banners. Special native dances were performed like unseen ancient rites. There was joy in simplicity, and yet it was no simple feat. By the end of the festivities, three hundred people had been hosted and Noel watched, in amazement, as the hosts effortlessly regarded even their guests’ smallest concerns. Elaborate, sophisticated Indian dishes were prepared on open fires. Homemade Nan, chapattis, and parathas came straight from the heated flames to the tables. It was a royal dinner and Noel was sure that all the other guests had retreated into an endless maze of rooms at the hunting lodge, thinking they had all participated in something unique and wonderful…”

So here we were, Robert and I in Muchmucha, Madhya Pradesh, my friend from Bombay, Avinash had asked us to come travel to Madhya Pradesh in Central India and spend some time with his family and visit their many properties in the state. His family has been a privileged family of that state for many centuries. In fact, the Government took over most of their private property after independence of India and still, several hundred kilometers of land are privately owned by them. Some of this land is part of the Bandhava Garh Wildlife resort.

At night mostly but also early morning, we would go in jeeps and hunt meats for lunch and dinner. Our visit to Muchmucha that the family maintains as a hunting lodge for friends, it seemed brought new life to this home and the many staff quarters that surrounded the home but were cleverly hidden. The villagers and their families were in stupor seeing all of us. Maybe having Robert, a white man in their midst was most intriguing.

This was not a spot where tourists ever got invited. It was reserved for those special occasions when Parliamentarians visited Madhya Pradesh and needed some special attention and care. Avinash's family had been in politics since India gained Independence. The home larger than the White House and far grander in design was freshly painted for this visit by us two friends. Local friends of the family drove several hundred kilometers to join in the festivities the Avinash’s family wanted to create for us. It would have been a waste to not share such opulence with more people, and so after asking us, they had invited others.

Spotted deer meat, barking deer meat, musk deer, antlers, rabbit meat, wild turkey, pheasant, chicken, wild boar and mountain deer and mountain goat, were all cooked. At one meal, the deer had been cooking for 2 days and nights inside a pit made in the ground. The pit was heated from above. The deer had been stuffed with meat of boar, goat, turkey, rabbit, chicken, partridges and quails. The different meats had all been marinated in different spices and marinades. And then the entire stuffed deer was marinated in a special pickling spice marinade. This was then wrapped in muslin and placed in the pit. The pit covered with clay and the top of the pit then heated with spent flame from the tandoor being used above.

The villagers made rustic Tandoori breads. Mostly different kinds of naans and parathas made with different flours. This variety ensured that those that were observing fasts at any given time could eat breads made without wheat flour.

Dals were made after they had been cooked over the flame of a chulha, an outdoor clay oven. Most food was cooked without onions and garlic. Men alone cooked meat dishes. The vegetables, dals and salads were all cooked by the women folk.

At every meal 30 dishes were served. It was the lucky number for the family in that period. 30 dishes made with meat, vegetables and pulses. The villagers would sing and dance and do Nautanki (street gymnastics, like what is being taught at the Hudson River Pier downtown these days).

If keema (minced goat) was being prepared for the meat eaters, they had made vegetarians like me keema (mince) out of lentils and at other time from beans and even minced vegetables.

Keema Koftas were made for Robert and the men folk, koftas made from Torai (zucchini), zimikand (yam), paalak (spinach) and mot kee dal (a special lentil) were made us vegetarians.

If parsindas were made for the meat eaters, parsindas were made for us vegetarians with raw green banana.

Stuffed deer for the meat eaters, stuffed kaddoo (pumpkin for us). Stuffed chicken for them, stuffed zucchini for us. Stuffed rabbit for them, stuffed bell peppers for us.

Meat kormas for them, vegetable kormas for us. Meat stews for them, vegetable stews for us. Meat curry for them, vegetable and pulse curries for us.

Kebabs for them, pakoras for us.

Over 89 tiger and lion skins, trophies from hunts that had happened before the government had asked for a freeze in the hunting of big game, lay treated, cleaned and in full glory for guests to sit on and take in the spirit of this once very active hunting lodge. The British loved the Pathak family for they indulged their greed for Indian wilderness in even more lavish ways than they recreated for Robert and I. It was thus easy for Robert and I to believe in the amiable relationship this family had with the British.

Robert and I were given tiger and lion skins as gifts, but neither one of us could bring them out of the country. My are in my families home. His with the Pathak family.

The meals were served with candlelight and mashaals (torches). The lodge had a “Boom Box”, but after consulting with us (we were shocked anyone could consider that option in the first place), live music was chosen as music for our stay. All food was served in sterling silver thaals (large plates, larger than chargers, for it was understood that the meals would have many dishes, and large plates would be required to hold all the variety).

Silver and gold flatware was provided for us. Most chose to eat with their hands. Lukewarm water made fragrant with rose petals and essence was poured into sterling fingerbowls for us to wash our hands before, after every course and at the end of the meal.

A special area was maintained where a Halwai (pastry chef) and his assistants worked. They cooked the most amazing array of sweets night and day. They also were responsible for serving us at just about anytime we so desired, Lassis, Rooh Afzah waala Doodh (milk flavored with Rooh Afzah, a special syrup made with many spices and herbs), Khus ka Paani (Vetiver water), Gulab Ka Sherbet (Rose flavored milk) and Chai (spiced tea).

My favorite would be the jalebis (spiral orange fried batter, soaked in syrup) served with jhaag (froth collected from boiling milk). This is still sold at some fine mithai waalas for a frightful sum of money, but here, it seemed like the milk would not stop frothing. The cows were milked just near the stand where the chef worked. The milk was boiled and cooled to make sure Robert and I would not fall sick. All water at the Lodge was being boiled first and then filtered. Dishes were being washed in that same water.

Born fires were lit with dead wood and twigs each of us found and the villagers children collected so as to not use logs of wood that would have encouraged timber trade. Not long after we had finished dessert, we would be eating again around these fires. Peanuts roasted over this flame, raw choliya (green and white peas) roasted on this flame and also we would be served rewri and gazak (candy made with rose water, sugar and sesame seeds and another made with jaggery and sesame seeds). The latter was my favorite and is the nicest dessert I can ever be served.

The night would come to and end only after every guest and everyone from the host’s family and village had sung a song, told a joke or danced or read a poem. We would all retreat into our rooms, air-conditioned and lush, wake up the next morning to more food, hunting, dance and music.

For two weeks, as we went from one property of theirs to another, we were treated like royalty. Even as an Indian used to a certain amount of such fuss and aplomb, I was bowled over, often I wonder if this was all a dream. But somewhere in Paris (In Roberts photo albums) and in NYC in my own photo collection, are pictures that speak of that most over the top existence we could have never imagined even in our wildest dreams. It was thus easy for Robert to extend his trip by 2 months. He was seeing an India most Indians can never see. We ate meals the kings and queens of yesteryears have documented in their memoirs and cookbooks, but we ate them as recently as 1993.

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Hi, I'm new to this site...I learned about it on Cooks Illustrated, and I love it already!! The most amazing meal I had was wild boar that my friend had actually shot herself, while hunting with her dad. The meat was fork tender and tasted great.

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I was about to write about my experiences - But suvir summed it up best :smile:

Most amazing meals one has is in the homes of people. Suvir's is a narrative of folks of the pre-Raj era. In my youth, the Gummint revoked the "Privy Purse" that allowed the princely entities to live that way.

Meals at homes - be it poor, or the princely kind is always fascinating. An old friend on mine; when he got married, had 7000+ guests - fed for three days.

Many households (depending on which of the thousand gods/goddesses you worship) have a big weekly feast after puja&fasting - this meal typically would have atleast 10-12 dishes. Each one of them sublime.

On a daily basis, outside of homes; expect to see a decent meal at Gymkhanas(clubs) (My experience being mostly Mumbai based)

Restaurants are low on the scale - Even the best amongst them do not come close to many of the clubs. This all I gather, is changing, as this generation does not care (or has the time) to devote to going to the gymkhana/clubs.

anil

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Hi, I'm new to this site...I learned about it on Cooks Illustrated, and I love it already!! The most amazing meal I had was wild boar that my friend had actually shot herself, while hunting with her dad. The meat was fork tender and tasted great.

"Welcome to the site and I hope we'll hear lots more from you." - Fat Guy

I mirror the same sentiment. Welcome! Look forward to hearing and sharing in more of your experiences and thoughts.

What part of the country did your friend hunt the wild boar? That must have truly been a great meal. Fork tender pork (wild boar)! Nice! I love wild boar... and certainly nothing like freshly hunted meat. :biggrin:

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i would have to say two meals. both prepared by french cooks working in copenhagen.

the first was at a child's 2 years birthday. the cook shared an appartement with the mother. my girlfriend and i knew only few of the invited people, and they proved to be of the kind one is supposed to know - and very self-centered. in spite of this, the meal had the effect of spreading a general feeling of brotherhood in the party. everybody seemed to see the world through a golden haze of joy! it is now 15 years ago, and i can't remember one single item of what was served, but it must have been excellent...

the second was a few years ago. we didn't know the couple very well, but we knew he was a cook. so, we felt a little, should i say intimidated, at the prospect of re-inviting...- a 5-course meal very well executed in their absolutely minuscule kitchen and with details i would never have thought you could do there (like, how in the ever-loving blue-eyed world did he keep the plates warm?).

those two meals have been matched by only one restaurant meal. and this has set me reflecting on the fact that the two cooks in question were not known around copenhagen. were they doing a special effort? were they not fighters, in the sense of pushing one's career? (one of them is now chef at the french embassy, though) i mean, had they had restaurants of their own, and upheld such a level, they would be in the top ten in copenhagen.

can anybody tell of similar experiences, and offer an explanation?

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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I had a great meal in a town called Elche (near Alicante, Spain) in someone's home. They made a great rice dish similar to paella (made in the paella pan) but with non-seafood ingrediants (including various sausages). They also served us grilled cuttlefish, 60 year old sherry, and a lemon pineapple mouse that the she had to get up early in the morning to make.

I have a picture of the her holding the paella pan fulkl of food. It could have been from any point in time...except that she is holding the pan with two shark-shaped ovenmits. :)

-Jason

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A magnificent occasion such as Suvir described can sometimes be approached by a single multitalented person. Nichola Fletcher is a fine designing jeweler, a distinguished food historian, an excellent chef and, with her husband, joint owner of a high-quality venison farm north of Edinburgh. For the millennium she conjured up a menu the mere imagining of which was a noteworth accomplishment. In the event, reality even exceeded fantasy: http://www.gfw.co.uk/stirwords/words0200nf.html

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Paling beside Suvir and all the previous experiences, but incomparable for us was the brandade de morue that a friend used to prepare, from his French grandmother's instruction, some 40 years ago! He dramatically brought out a huge pot of hot boiled mashed and whipped potatoes, mixed in cooked and flaked salt cod, chopped garlic, raw egg and olive oil, whipping the mass into a smooth but textured whole. We enjoyed his presentation perhaps a dozen times. Since then, my husband has ordered brandade almost every time he finds it on a menu (read a zillion times), but has never been served anything close to our friend's dish. Many contain cream; some are oily, some fishy, some bland. Our friend's didn't and wasn't. I have finally suggested to my husband, "Stop ordering brandade! You're going to be disappointed!" Needless to say, I have also tried many times to recreate the magic and joy of this humble dish, but no amount of wine for cook or diner elevates my attempts to our friend's simple but perfect rendition. :sad:

eGullet member #80.

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One is always lucky to receive an invitation for dinner to be served by somebody who cares about food. A brunch on the lawn or a buffet served in a kitchen, when served by a gourmet, assures one of "something special"

My instant recollection (when I read this topic) was of a buffet where every delicious item was a conversation piece. The centerpiece was a huge stuffed boneless bird (a turkey?) that had been expertly deboned and then stuffed with a deboned chicken. Jim, our host, credited his Oriental bookkeeper for having assisted him in the preparation. That magnificent bird was easily sliced to reveal the facts that I've described and it's been 15 years since that evening, but the memory still burns. (How on earth did he do that???)

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One is always lucky to receive an invitation for dinner to be served by somebody who cares about food. A brunch on the lawn or a buffet served in a kitchen, when served by a gourmet, assures one of "something special"

My instant recollection (when I read this topic) was of a buffet where every delicious item was a conversation piece. The centerpiece was a huge stuffed boneless bird (a turkey?) that had been expertly deboned and then stuffed with a deboned chicken. Jim, our host, credited his Oriental bookkeeper for having assisted him in the preparation. That magnificent bird was easily sliced to reveal the facts that I've described and it's been 15 years since that evening, but the memory still burns. (How on earth did he do that???)

Thanks for sharing that buffet. What part of the world did you enjoy it in? Will add to the intrigue and wonder of your memory. Would you care to share?

Invitations to meals at homes of friends that one knows cook well, surpass any other in my book as well. It is understood that "something special" will be witnessed that meal. :smile:

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Suvir inquired about the area of the world where that fantastic buffet was served. My response:

The best of the best will always be served by the most enlightened and the most discriminating people.

It's been my good fortune to find some of those people in unlikely places. Specifically, that particular meal was served for 20 guests by a guy who is known in San Diego as "Slumlord Jim". Broadly educated and financially successful in real estate, Jim simply loves fine food and entertaining. His kitchen has a professional look. A guest of Jim will always leave astonished at the wonderous foods that Jim has served.

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Princeton, NJ, 1968. I was 19, on a work-term from Beloit College, building costumes at McCarter Theatre. One of our English dept. faculty (a published poet) was at P'ton as a visiting professor. He hosted a Sunday lunch for his colleagues, and kindly included me. The only food I remember was the soup: half-and-half beef and chicken consommés, with a touch of lemon juice and a lot of black pepper. It was the first time I felt like an adult. (Probably the only time, in fact.)

Thanksgiving, Washington, DC area, 1979. The managing director of the theater I was working at invited me and my SO to join her and her SO and some of her friends at dinner somewhere out in the country (probably Virginia). The meal was the usual turkey, dressing, etc. It was the setting that made it so special: sitting outside an old farmhouse, in unexpectedly warm weather, with people we knew and people we got to know. Doing exactly what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: sharing food and talk, until late into the evening under a clear, starry sky.

I tell these 2 stories because I believe there is so much more to a "great meal" than just the food and wine. The physical setting, the cameraderie, the talk -- all these can make a good meal into a great one in our minds.

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I tell these 2 stories because I believe there is so much more to a "great meal" than just the food and wine.  The physical setting, the cameraderie, the talk -- all these can make a good meal into a great one in our minds.

Cannot agree with you more. A great meal is far more than just the brilliance of the menu and taste of the food.

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I was thinking of how to plan a friends itinerary in India when I remembered a friend now long gone, but the memories just as alive today as when he was alive and hosting us in Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttar Pradesh, a Northern Indian state.

Rajan our friend was a racecar driver that had won the Himalayan Car Rally and several others. He was that risk-taking, living on the edge guy that people from the world over in the know wanted to meet. Rajan and his brother were friends of the family and he had become an elder brother to my siblings and I. When he came to Delhi, which was at least a couple of times a month, he would stay in our home.

Rajan Randhawa and Manmohan Randhawa were brothers that lived in Haridwar. A very holy Indian city. It is the first place on the Indian plain where the holy river Ganga first hits the plains. A vegetarian city, Haridwar is normally associated with all things pious and sacred. While the elder Manmohan would partake in the rituals that encompass spiritual life in India, Rajan would have complete respect for these and still maintain a life that was at once contemporary and modern as one could find in any large city of the world. He had the latest cars, every gadget that any rich person around the world could boast of. The best designers and architects designed their home. In a city where one could find millions of close to naked holy men, in their home one would find every amenity that the modern world affords those that have money.

In their home, I first met Gyaneshwar. Retired chef of Indira Gandhi that they had been able to hire as their families chef. Since Gyaneshwar would not be challenged by their home cooking alone, they had organized for him to be the executive chef at BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited) a utility giant in most of Northern India. So between these two jobs, Gyaneshwar would cook heavenly food, in this blessed land for mere mortals. The setting was brilliant. Here we were, mortals in a city steeped in lore, myth, aura and power and flooded often with the largest congregation of humanity anywhere in the world. During Kumbh Mela, more millions collect here than in any one place at any given time in the world. People travel even thousands of miles to come take a dip in the holy water of the Ganges. And we came here only to be with Manmohan Uncle and Rajan and later his wife and kids.

As a kid I was always excited about visiting them for I got to see the serene yet largely hyperactive hustle and bustle of a city as holy as this. While our police escorted, flag ridden car (since my father often had to make official trips here) we would be able to zip through most traffic jams. The news of our visit would reach Rajan and Manmohan Uncle through the walkie-talkie communication between the traffic police, their headquarters and then to the Randhawa residence. Everyone knew that my father the bureaucrat that would never stay in private homes during official travels would make only one exception, and it was for these visits to Haridwar. He would forgo on staying at the local Guest House but agree to break his rule and stay in his dear friend Manmohan and his brothers’ home. So, even before our car had come near their home, Gyaneshwar would be preparing snacks to be served at our arrival. The car would pull into the drive way and the next thing we knew, bearers with large trays would come out within a couple of minutes with our favorite drinks, chaats and munchies. All of this was timed perfectly through the help of the traffic police and their respect for these brothers that gave Haridwar a unique presence. One not known to those that go there for religious pilgrimage.

Gol Gappas (also called Pani Puri, check thread on Dimple chat in the India board), Chaat papri, Dhoklas, Khandvi, Ragda, Aloo Tikki, Khasta Kachori, Dahi Bhalle and Bhel Puri would all be prepared. The gol gappas (deep fried wheat balls) the papri (wheat crisps), the sev (very fine chickpea flour noodles) and the bhallas had all been prepared just minutes before our arrival. Such freshness is common but service so of the minute is rare even in the most decadent of all Indian homes. But Gyaneshwar would never have it any other way. He knew no other way. So in the heart of this ancient, holy and other-world Indian city, we were sitting in a mansion as grand as any, in a garden as beautifully landscaped as what the gardens around the Taj Mahal may have been in their prime. Sitting in the garden, amongst the sounds of bells, chanting and all sorts of prayer related noises, we were in a cocoon, which was nested in this cities heart and yet so far removed. While almost every person in that city was partaking in the very austere and yet vibrant energy of this grand city, we were partaking in the grandeur of food prepared by a grand master for a family that loved to entertain and host and spoil rotten any and all that came into this home of theirs.

We would always arrive at their home around 6 PM… the ritual snack time would end by 7:30… we would all retire to our own rooms in this palatial home. Shower, get massaged, indulge ourselves with a bath in a hot tub, a visit to one of the many saunas in this home or the professional gymnasium that was part of the families home. By 10PM Gyaneshwar would have dinner served at the stately dining room. The dining table alone could be the prized collection of any museum the world over, but it was one of the simplest and most obscure pieces of this room. Chairs, tables, trays, lamps, sofas, love seats and china cabinets were all made with walnut wood from Kashmir and accented with details from the many hunts the brothers had taken people to. While the meal at the Hunting Lodge in Madhya Pradesh seemed perfect for a visiting Dignitary, this setting was too decadent and too surreal for anyone to ever think even in their wildest dreams. It was also in many ways ghastly and sad. No more than a dozen people being lavished in a manner that in sheer expense of its happening would have fed and given homes to thousands of homeless. But the brothers did employ the local folk to make these feasts happen. They also ran shelters for the poor, elderly and the homeless. They ran the Indian version of soup kitchens and all of this done in memory of their parents.

Amongst heads of lions, tigers, Himalayan goat, boar, antlers, elephant tusks, and dozens of ivory inlaid pieces of furniture, dinner would be served as Mrs. Gandhi would have been accustomed to providing visiting heads of states in the Prime Ministers residence in New Delhi. Gyaneshwar with a blank check to pull no stops would create meals he claims are far more elaborate than even Mrs. Gandhi ever saw. No meal had less than 56 entrees. Chutneys and pickles and relishes of ever and all kinds from around India. Dinner could not be enjoyed without lingering for a couple of hours… Everybody stopped, ate slow, and took several small portions. Such was the norm and understood ritual. Time was of essence and yet time seemed eternal. No one worried that it was past midnight and dinner was still being enjoyed without any rush. Dessert would be a feast by itself. Gyaneshwar, who had studied in France for years, would hire a Halwai (Indian sweet maker-pastry chef) and use his training as a classic French pastry chef to create the most exciting assortment of desserts. Being the youngest in our group, my famous sweet tooth would never be ignored. For my sake and to encourage my growing interest in food, its history and traditions, Uncle Manmohan would make sure that Gyaneshwar and his chefs would have created desserts from many different parts of India and the world. It was only around 2 AM in the morning that we would leave our dessert plates. In between eating our desserts, we also sang old classic film songs and of course my father could not end any visit to Haridwar without my having to recite the 12th chapter of the Gita in Sanskrit. Since I had done that for the radio and won several national Sanskrit recitation competitions, I think it was his way of showing off that his son not only studied this ancient language like most all school kids, but that his son could sing in it and also was considered one of the handful of people that could speak it and read news in it. After my recitation of the Gita, we would all go to our rooms to dress up for the hunt.

At this late hour of the night (early morning) we would all (except Uncle Manmohan, who would sleep as he woke up at 4:30 every morning to walk up a hill to go to a shrine of the Mata-mother goddess) get into a large jeep with Rajan driving and one of his old hands carrying a flash light. We would get into the dense woods in the base of the Himalayas. The Doon valley is famous for tigers and Jim Corbett wrote extensively about this area and its wildlife. In days past tigers had been hunted but for these excursions, it was only about being one with the wilderness. If at all any animal was hunted, it would be wild boar. Nothing else. Gyaneshwar made the best-pickled wild boar I have ever eaten. He would marinate the boar in a spice rub for days before seasoning it with spices and oils and then cooking in the sun.

The hunt was my favorite part of these trips. Rajan had a way with spotting animals. Even as he drove, he would suddenly bring the jeep to a halt and point towards a certain direction and to all our surprise, he would have spotted a tiger or a mountain goat, or a tusker. It was not uncommon for us to find ourselves frightening close to a tiger in an open jeep. In fact once we were driving (Rajan was actually reversing) and the car came to a halt after having hit something. Rajan drove ahead some, had the light bearer flash the light at the back and we had hit the kill that the Tiger was eating and protecting. The tiger was shocked at what had happened, at least I was frightened seeing the Tiger so close, no more than 3 feet away. And angry about being disturbed. Rajan asked for all of us to be quiet. He drove away.. And we all lived.

The hunt could not be complete without a ritual stop in a tree house which houses a holy man who had come to this forest to find a place to meditate. Rajans family owned most of this forestland privately. It was land, which was theirs on condition that it not be made into farmland. Only a small percentage of this land they could use for Basmati farming. For this reason, as a young kid, Rajan had taken up hunting. Often old and wounded tigers would kill a farmer. This would then have to be remedied with a hunt for the aging tiger and finally catching it to send to a zoo or killing it. The old holy man would tell Rajan about what had been happening in the Jungle.. Tell him about where he had spotted tigers and tuskers and what nuisance if any they had been creating. The holy man always was smoking pot. I was always surprised that my parents completely ignored that part.

As Uncle Manmohan would be getting ready to go to his morning hike up the cliff to the shrine of the Mother Goddess, we would be coming in to go to bed. The kitchen staff would take the boar and get it cleaned and prepared for Gyaneshwar to work his magic. The evening would come to an end. The next day would be more food and more fun. But this was the ritual of the first evening.

When I had taken Chuck to Haridwar his first time, everything happened as above, but the next day, Rajan had organized a visit to the home of Samir Thapar. The Thapars are a very big business family of India. They have a hunting lodge in Rishikesh. The lodge is more like a medieval fortress on the banks of the Ganges. Every detail of the house is carved by hand and in wood or stone. Living in it is like living in an Indian temple of an era before Christ. While we had known the Thapars and enjoyed the company of Samir many times at the Randhawa house, this time around, Chuck was being taken to this famous home.

The next morning, all 10 of us were boarded onto a vessel that was the same one that took Sir Edmund Hillary upstream on the Ganges. A beautiful vessel, it was a perfect thing for Chuck as the mariner in him could not have been more intrigued, impressed and more spoiled. It was a mariners dream. Here we were in an ancient city, in a vessel that was historic and significant, with people that were fun and special and going upstream on a river that is fierce and rapid. It seemed easy for us to not be scared for this was the vessel that carried Sir Hillary to his destination. We were all in awe of the Ganges and mankind. Here we were going upstream taking risks one would not find easily plausible unless watching a movie. Wave after wave hit the glass that had been a part of the board since yesteryears. The waves would blind our vision as they hit the glass. If the glass were not there, we would have never made it to Rishikesh.

We took our time going up… since for Chucks benefit, the gentleman steering the wheel decided to go slow and also highlight the beautiful white sand beaches that have been formed over the years alongside the Ganga. In fact today a beautiful 5 Star Boutique hotel is set in these same beaches. The Glass House on the Ganges was open then… but we decided to only see it from the outside as we were going for lunch and an overnight stay at The House in this entire region. After an hour or so of being in this vessel, we were close to the foot of the hill that housed the Thapar residence. Those of us that were nervous about this upstream adventure seemed relieved that we had made it up. We still had 60 to 100 feet to go when a wave crashed the glass into shards…. We were all wet… and most of us had red all over our clothes. None of us were bleeding and it seemed like something other than blood had colored our bodies and clothing. Well, the kind man steering us had been badly hurt and the shards had gone into him all over. He was pretending to not be hurt, got us all to the point where the vessel would be docked and we could get onto the pier and make it to the Thapar home for lunch. Even as he was all hurt, he had radioed ahead and asked for them to be ready for him and his wounds. A car was ready to take him to the hospital as we docked and later, I saw him, all bandaged but fortunately not too severely hurt. We were all worried his eyes could have been affected. But fortunately the wounds were all over but the shards escaped the eyes.

We made it up the hill and onto the gardens of this house on the edge of the Ganga in Rishikesh. The palace of fine Indian art was everything we could have imagined and more. A helipad and a mini golf course were part of the property. And a beautiful white sand private beach alongside the Ganges just for the family. We all showered, got into clothes that did not bear any stains. My father made sure the kind man steering us had been received at the hospital and that all was being done to ensure his good health. The hosts began with the intricacies involving a banquet at a setting as heavenly as this. In fact, for many Indians, this could well be heaven… for the carvings in the home, the crystal clear water of the Ganges, the continuous echo of chants and temple bells, the smell of fragrant flowers intoxicating the mind into a trance that elevated even the most stressed spirits, all seemed like that heaven one would expect heaven to be.

The hosts had organized traditional Punjabi food. There were all kinds of vegetables, chicken and goat preparations. Brilliant parathas, naans and chapattis. Raitas and salads made in so many ways I would be unable to remember them all. Sam’s wife had told me the menu to make sure the food and dishes would be fine for my family and Chuck. I was embarrassed at the sheer assortment of dishes and was speechless. I think she understood. Somehow word got to them that Chuck had been missing the wonderful seafood he had eaten in Bombay. Well, a chopper was sent out to find fresh fish and the next thing we knew, a few hours later, Pomfret and crab from Bombay, was added to the menu.

Gyaneshwar had been invited by them to make desserts for that lunch and dinner in their home. Like the night before, we were speechless, alas fattened and spoiled. The next morning for breakfast, he had made no less than 2-dozen breakfast foods (Indian and Continental).

We left the next day… My parents to Delhi and Chuck and I to Mussoorie. We spent another day with Rajan and Uncle Manmohan on our way back to Delhi. We came to NYC and soon after, we got a call from my mother about Uncle Manmohan passing away from a sudden and unexpected heart attack and months after, Rajan was killed under suspicious and tragic circumstances.

While these two men are not there to recreate the magic they had shared with their family and friends, their magic and lore have continued to live as vibrantly as when they entertained when in their human form. I feel guilty that I could not have done something to save these two very generous people. I feel even more guilty that I was one of a very few that ever would live that grandeur they shared so effortlessly. I feel guilty that a world they gave so much to could not protect them. And I feel guilty that I could not have written this while they could have still read it in their mortal person. But I do feel, as is understood by Rajans family and kids that Rajan and Uncle Manmohan will live in the hearts of many for generations to come as men who created in India of the 21st century, an India that one can only dream of and maybe see in movies made about its colorful mythology.

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Suvir, I have twice had the very good fortune of dining at retreats where the resident master chef performed miracles for the few.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was my host (in the mid 1960s) at a "camp" that they operated in Northern California. I was surprised to find a beautiful lodge in the wilderness, presided over by a professional chef who prepared fantastic meals for the small groups who would stay there as guests of PG&E. Elegant dinners, not "camp" food.

Frank B. Hall Insurance, before it folded, operated a retreat near New York City. Seminars and small company get-togethers were held there and a professional chef was the major domo.

Each evening, cocktails through dinner were affairs that would rival any private dinner party. The man-in- charge really knew how to host a dinner. It was like a country club, and perhaps part of what clouded the fate for Frank B. Hall Co.

While nothing equal to your 24 choice breakfasts in Punjabi, your description of Gyaneshwar brought instant memories of my astonishment over finding fantastic chefs in very unlikely places. I personally feel that those "finds" say as much for a caring host. I've always found that the hosts who care most about good food are the most lovable.

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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was my host (in the mid 1960s) at a "camp" that they operated in Northern California. I was surprised to find a beautiful lodge in the wilderness, presided over by a professional chef who prepared fantastic meals for the small groups who would stay there as guests of PG&E. Elegant dinners, not "camp" food.

How funny.. the similarities between your experience and mine.

Elegant dinners.. served in a retreat like setting.. and a connection to a large Utilities company. (BHEL in my case and PG&E in yours).

Curious and exciting.

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Frank B. Hall Insurance, before it folded, operated a retreat near New York City. Seminars and small company get-togethers were held there and a professional chef was the major domo.

Each evening, cocktails through dinner were affairs that would rival any private dinner party. The man-in- charge really knew how to host a dinner. It was like a country club, and perhaps part of what clouded the fate for Frank B. Hall Co.

Another similarity. How funny... so many family and friends of mine believe that the generosity that the Randhawa brothers blessed on those they knew and the countless thousands of destitutes that ever came to their hotels, soup kitchens and rest houses, made their competition very jealous.

Their generosity rivaled any and all of the worlds foremost philanthropists. For they gave without getting anything back. No tax breaks to speak of.. really... But a love from the poorest of poor and some personal satisfaction that should ultimately drive each of us anyways.

But Alas, all of this many believe may have caused the elder brother to die of cardiac failure in his early 40s.. and was responsible for the murder of dear Rajan... a man in hus 30s.

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While nothing equal to your 24 choice breakfasts in Punjabi, your description of Gyaneshwar brought instant memories of my astonishment over finding fantastic chefs in very unlikely places. I personally feel that those "finds" say as much for a caring host. I've always found that the hosts who care most about good food are the most lovable.

The number of dishes would hardly matter. If a chef like Gyaneshwar was cooking, even the one item they prepared would be food fit for the Gods. It certainly makes life so full of pleasant and unexpected but also somewhat understood surprises when one finds such great talent in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes though, I feel it is a given... For we lose real touch with brilliance when lost in its midst. It is as if the shine a diamond is lost in the company of many other brilliant diamonds such as itself. How could one really find one better than another without spending too much time de-constructing the stome completely.

I could not agree with you more about lovable hosts serving the best meals and making one most comfortable.

Even the best food cooked and personally served by the finest of chefs would be poison in my mouth in the home of one bereft of love.

Love and genuine desire to share and spoil make for a great host and a memorable experience. If someone is loving and genuine, they are all one needs for having a special time.

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I am new to this board, but Suvir your story sounds like you are full of $^&t. My favorite piece was about the helicopter flying out for fresh food. How many helicopters can fly 1000 miles from the Himalayas to Bombay and return with fresh seafood within the course of a few hours? Or perhaps it was a fighter jet on loan from the Russian commisar who was also staying in the Himalayas as a guest.

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