Reviewing the Reviewer
How wise and knowledgeable reviewers sound when they speak, don’t they? Some with a frown, while others with a very benevolent smile, examining, scrutinizing, analyzing. Yes, we find them everywhere-Movie Critic, Food critic, music reviewer and many more. And then there are some cruel versions of reviewer like the Job interviewer, examiner, externals- Sigh! does remind of a bitter feeling in the mouth, don’t they? But how about reviewing the reviewer for a change, especially by some one who has negligible amount of knowledge on the same? Sounds crazy? Weird? Fun?Well, I did just that and it was fun , more because the reviewer I reviewed was none other than my dear friend and our very own Food editor cum Recipe Reviewer cum Food critic cum imaginative chef, one of our main attractions in FE , Sanjeeta ( contributes features as Sanzeeta) ! I am sure you will remember her the one who brought before you some amazingly brilliant culinary compositions like the Baby Fried Eye and Dusto Suwali . I was delighted to watch her at work over a huge sumptuous lunch of Naga thaali, Assamese thaali and Manipuri thaali in Delhi Haat. Strangely , I remember less about the thaalis and more of her antics. The thaalis were no doubt very good, with the Naga Thali topping my rating on taste and presentations, way ,way over the other two, but I will repeat that Sanjeeta was a delight to watch. If you are thinking I sold my writer’s soul for a thaali and few childhood memories, then I plead not guilty and in my defense I will just recapitulate the day , so as to describe her modus operandi with no frills and cheap thrills ( that was a joke) and also promise not to impose my views and opinions on you, rather I will let you form your own opinion at the end of the write up.
I was late by quite a few minutes for our luncheon date, but she did not seem to notice it, instead I noticed that she had already lodged herself in theAssamstall with a big sign of WIP (work in progress). I really wasn’t aware that she meant business when she had invited me for a power lunch and while I reached there armed with my kid, she was already at work with her KIT – digicam, pen, notepad, a huge bag.
After the initial customary hugs and squeals that we females are so infamous for, I settled in. And then my jaw dropped to see that she had already ordered a full meal of an Assamese thaali and maas tenga and was at that precise moment directing the waiter to set the dishes right, adjust the garden umbrella while she went click! click !click ! amidst her constant chatter about the ingredients, tips on proper lighting and presentation, variations of the dishes etc etc. Diners at the other tables looked at us in astonishment much to my embarrassment, but Super chef was completely oblivious to all and was emerged in her world of food , photography and cuisines. The food looked inviting and tempting but I had to wait patiently for the perfectionist to finish her notes before digging into the goodies. Finally she was done and the food as you might say was history within minutes.
The assamese thaali acted like an appetizer and we both made our way towards the naga stall. I remember liking what I smelled over there. She instantly hunched over the menu as she tried to analyse it through their descriptions ,while I continued sniffing like a pomerian. We again opted for the Naga thaali (Here I would like to add that thaali ,I believe is a reflection of a particular cuisine) along with akhuni and chutney. Again I had to practice some agonizing moments of self control as she tried to capture the perfect shot.- the angle, lights, porcelain . Presentation is as important as the taste ,she had said, as I gritted my teeth and smiled through. Though she was quite in synch with assamese cuisine , Naga cuisine was new for her and like a kid with a new toy, she chewed, mulled, rolled her tongue, inhaled,- trying to absorb the feel of the dish. The critic was at some serious work . I let her be while I followed the rule of the movie -Good , bad and ugly – “when you have to eat… Eat. Don’t talk.” (when you have to shoot… Shoot, Don’t talk) But I think Sanjeeta hadn’t heard that dialogue so she continued her chatter , guessing the ingredients, commenting on the probable method of preparation, sometimes exclaiming- perfect! While at other times – a dash! Just a dash…!. I managed to grunt my assent in between my glob glob, chomp chomp and slurpps! The naga thali was really awesome. And then it happened.
Suddenly she demanded to speak to the chef to offer her compliments and also learn in details about the ingredients and procedure. The chef was reluctant to see us but she persisted with a
– Arre hum writers hai. Tumhare bare mein magazine mein likhega. Bulao na usse”
Can anybody dare not obey a leo, so there he was, meekly in front of her, but he was of little help. He could not enlighten her much as he let out that everything came packaged from the source. He just had to mix and fry. So much for freshness! But if you don’t fuss over the “freshness“ bit , the naga thaali was a complete delight, which I crave every time I hit the gym.
Satiated completely by the great meal ,I had by then became aware of the goodies on display in the haat and my other feminine instinct of shopping threatened to take over, but not Sanjeeta. Enthusiastically she zoomed in on the Manipur Stall. I just managed to huff and puff after her and again followed the same process of click and some chats with the manager and chef. While I became groggy with overeating, she pranced about energetically with her object of affection- Food! I did not mind the delay this time but finally the time came to tackle the Manipuri thaali too. I remember finishing it somehow. I am sure if I hadn’t looked so dazed and green, she would have dragged me onto the Meghalaya and Arunachal stalls too, but matching her passion, energy and dedication was too much for me.
Phew! Reviewing a reviewer is hard and even more so if she is a perfectionist.
Well that was just a glimpse of how the Food Editor of Fried Eye worked on field, but if you want to know more about how her mind works or the efforts she puts in to bring before you, the tasty recipes every fortnight,, please read this which is ad verbatim of one of her mails in a group discussion.
- I have discussed with Chief regarding the diversifying in food contributions like selective recipes,-sometimes article on spices, or sometimes on one product like luci.. ( which i’m preparing right now).
- Yes I do keep stock ready for the next publication.. I myself had taken shots for clear visuals 4 times for the same recipe.. .because its not just writing; For recipes I guess the visual needs to be strong too.. So even though the food preparation is good and tastes good, It falls out if visuals are not clear and then the article goes for a fix.
- I discussed with PB on writing few food articles as ” picks for summers” Guess I’ll work more on this front and keep the recipe contribution by guests more. It’s diversity and fusion I m focusing on. and once a month on a popular food item from N-E. like masor tenga. Once in a while something on conceptual dish to represent FRIED EYE
Though Whatever I had described about our rendezvous was in fun or you can say business mixed with pleasure, its not always fun. Its not at all easy to maintain a food corner . To start a new section is a big responsibility and the degree of responsibility increases if it is something as challenging as ethnic cuisine and innovative recipes. Food corner of Fried Eye is a product of collective efforts of a group of dedicated foodies in the likes of Sanjeeta, The Chief Editor Pramathesh Borkotoky and our contributors and of course primarily the loyal readers of this column, without whose enthusiastic support , the team wouldn’t have made it so far.
Hope you will continue your love and support for us always, and make it possible for me to review Sanjeeta now and then over sumptuous lunches.
We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org