There is nothing more exhilarating than devouring food as a group; ordering so much as to lose track of who ate what and blink incessantly at the stout bill (with gratuity included like a clench in the stomach) only to realize that the idli Manchurian had escaped your side of the table completely! The past few weekends I had restaurant-hopped only to reiterate the slothful cycle of drink coffee- eat-discuss how to while away time until next meal-argue over choice of restaurants-eat again-play poker with snacks on the side-sleep-getup-drink coffee-decide which restaurant to go to today… (You get the point!)

May be I am exaggerating a little. No, I am not exaggerating enough! We played poker, watched crap like ‘watchmen’, smashed people as we played wii only (it seemed) to fill in the hiatus between meals that were delicious enough to dope you to ecstasy! May be not! But then, Indian food; I correct “good Indian food” is a rare commodity for a Bostonian and when one sets foot on Edison street of New Jersey, you cant help but eat all that food as much as possible, leave alone stop thinking/talking about it for sometime.

Amidst this little circle of life, that almost always revolves around the roti bit of RKM*, the Indian Diaspora in this country spends one-third of their time here – either trying hard to recreate the magic of food back home over long reliance bills and a million recipes online or reminiscing street foods, sharavan bhavans and sadhyai meals, like they were the only things that made them jingoistic about India.

Over my little less than four years here, I have come across many who have made it a point to be as minimally accommodative of the many choices one has for food here. And if I were to categorize the lot highlighting in Indian film industry style –“All characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance to someone living or dead is purely coincidental”, it would be thus –

NonChanceTakers: I’d rather not have the fries that share the oil with the lard. I’d rather stay hungry than dare look at a restaurant that isn’t deemed ‘pure veg’.
Scan the entire menu, scowl, scorn and say ‘Salad with no side’

SafePlayers: I don’t like to fuss, as long as the ‘m-word’ is not visible. They stick to the veggie options available and do not ponder more than what meets the eye. It is ok as long as the fish sauce is not chunks of fish in the pad thai.
Veggie burger please OR Vegetarian burrito bowl OR Greek wrap OR family style tofu

Non-vegetable eating Vegetarians: They could dispose of a pipping channa batura or dripping vadais until the last drop of oil, but if it were served on a bed of fresh lettuce could freak them out. Salad is a definite No-no and any vegetarian option that mentions fresh/grilled/lightly toasted vegetables is a put off.
Arree yaar, lets have Indian food ya… where the vegetable is mashed, oiled, deep fried and mutilated.

SpoilSports: The ones that get a kick out of freaking out the already difficult to acclimatize. Even the milk you get has beefy juices for fat; Tofu is processed lard ; Eeesh when they say fish sauce at a thai place, its actually oyster, squid and earth worm sauce!

TailorMakers: The ones that confuse the waiter to distraction
Thai chicken curry with no chicken
Fried rice with no chicken, no egg, no broccoli, no mushroom, no beans, no pea pods .. and .. ahh no tofu
Please use a new pair of gloves before making my veggie sub. I am allergic to meat enough to vomit all over this place..ehh

StrictTailorMakers: The ones that perplex the waiter to annoyance
Does this have meat? It says vegetarian. But it definitely doesnt have meat right? Are the vegetables actually meat cut like veggies? Sure no, No meat right? Will it taste like meat?

SemiVeg: They believe that a little indulgence on the other side is of no harm.
I am chicketarian when I go to KFC!, Otherwise I am a pure veg. I am not fussy, no..
I taste the gravy.. But I wont eat the meat you see..

DayKeepers: The ones that throw a surprise then and there.
Can I have the chilly shrimp customized to be veggie? ‘why?? Whats wrong? Health ok?’ ‘Saturday machi..Following no meat day dude!’

StrictlyNonveg: The ones that could frown at an all veggie menu and can eat anywhere else, as long as the dish has enough meat to regurgitate. For them the allegiance to the meat eating nation is secretly higher than the one called home.

All said and done, I am glad for having licked-sucked-belched over a many course meal at Bombay Talk from all the plates passed around and contentedly remembered gangotri days of college life and pandered to the shenanigans of a food-centric nation.

*RKM – Roti, Kapda aur Makan