Monday, July 21, 2008

#219: Taking All the Cheese Cubes From the Mattar Paneer

No Indian gathering would be complete without the requisite tray of Mattar Paneer heated from below with a blue gas flame. Whether the occasion be a Saraswati Puja in a church basement or a lunch buffet at Convention, Mattar Paneer, or stewed peas and chunks of cheese, will serve as the culinary keystone of a meal, seamlessly uniting the dry smokiness of the naan with the equally stark tuft of pilao. Here is something with moisture, something that will lubricate the joints of this dessicated meal and bring it to life with the fluidity of motion, for as any Indian knows, no meal is a meal until both your napkin and paper plate are soaked through with the soggy consistency of curry run amok.

Perhaps no other dish can match Mattar Paneer for its boggy constitution because no other dish faces the same degree of focused scrutiny. At any Indian gathering where food is served, Mattar Paneer endures an attention novel to its nature - for reasons beyond the scope of sheer sociology, Indians love to pillage trays of Mattar Paneer for all the cubes of cheese, leaving diners unfortunate enough to populate the rear of the line with only a swamp of curried peas to halfheartedly ladle on to their plate.

Any Indian who has had the misfortune of sitting at the table called last to attend the buffet during an Indian wedding reception knows the gnawing anxiety and aggravated Restless Leg Syndrome elicited by the understanding that Indians, in general, will purloin paneer. When the time comes and the black vested hotel employee responsible for controlling the rush toward the food points at your table, granting you permission to join the ranks of the ravenous plundering the peas, pakoras, and parathas, your heart sinks to find the Mattar Paneer paneerless. You look helplessly around, searching for eye contact with any member of the hotel staff who can understand your plight, and you realize the futility of your request as they shrug sympathetically when you explain through your St. Louis drawl, "Thurr's no Panurr Herre! Thurr's no murre Panurr Herre!"

The cause is lost like a Ralph Nader presidential bid as you notice the only people who understand you are rummaging through the leftover peas and perhaps beating you to that lonely curd of cheese sitting defiantly at the bottom like a noble pearl beneath the sea taunting the greedy to grasp it.

Ultimately you resign yourself to a parched meal of dry carbohydrates and water, grimacing at the prospect of washing down tandoori fired chicken wrapped in arid naan with a bolus of straightforward white rice. Just then, though, like the gates of Heaven welcoming you behind St. Peter, the double doors leading to the hotel's kitchen swing open to reveal another tray of Mattar Paneer arriving at the table. As the staff replaces the old tray with the new like a highly skilled pit crew you see the overabundance of cheese cubes bouncing in the soupy sea of peas like buoyant chunks of bullion offering themselves up for your covetous consumption.

You reach for the dish but the ladle is out of your grasp; you are too far forward in the perpetually moving line. There is no way back as people push ahead to make their way through the buffet efficiently. Like the rush for open seats on a New Jersey Transit train from Edison to Jersey City during the AM commute there is no way to compete against the will of all. You must move forward. You turn to a seemingly sympathetic Uncle nearby and he reaches out with the omniscience of benediction. "Come, beta," he says, "If you'd like more Paneer the end of the line starts there."

5 comments:

Subhash said...

Hey ma, how you doin? It's your son now. And I'm trying to pick up the MICROPONE, and put the drugs down. But errytime they try to blah blah blah, I try to bob lablaw's law blog. Somethin somethin somethin stack that cheese.

Anonymous said...

may there at least be the satisfaction of knowing that those grabby folk whose paneer eyes are bigger than their stomachs will be those same, poor unfortunate souls stopping at gas stations every 4 minutes to tend to that karma-infested diarrhea after their cousin's wedding. i'm not saying it happened to me. i'm just saying.

ConcreteJunky said...

Dude, seriously. Even at the damn restaurants you have to go fishing for the cubes in the saag paneer

Anonymous said...

Console yourself with the fact that, these are the same people, who, 5-10 years down the line will be in waiting rooms of cardiologists...


Personally, I find North Amreekan paneer disgusting to the n th degree :D

Anonymous said...

Hahaha I have iranian relatives that do the same shit.
Here is what I do, I put out a first layer, let them stuff themselves on the lower quality shit, then when you see the are getting full on the chicken legs and thighs, then refill with the breasts and better cuts, you gotta lowball them and let them fill up, save the good stuff for last,