Who says diamonds are a woman’s best friends? Especially, when you have eaten brekkie like a beggar, your tummy growls, your food cravings howl and you are in no mood to tantalize the taste buds of your family showing off your culinary skills on a mid-week afternoon. And that’s precisely when your resourceful brain highlights an FB share by Chef Milind Sovani about a Ganpati special thali he designed for Gayatri restaurant in the East coast! Despite resisting the urge to eat out during COVID times, this happens to be one of those rare occasions when the menu lures you into taking the plunge. Any resistance by the better half is therefore rendered futile while his incessant workload suffers an emergency brake.

Hungry and drooling, I make it to the restaurant which has only 2 tables that aren’t reserved. I place my order after the mere formality of spuriously scanning through the menu, not to come across as desperate. But the irony, my expressions are like an open book. The waiter who takes my order pokes my pride by asking, “2 thalis?”

Did I forget to mention the better half hadn’t made his grand entry yet? I roll my eyes and provide justification; then put my camera on selfie mode to check how fat and hungry I look. On a totally unrelated note, I have never understood why people always ask me these embarrassing questions.

While I burn with rage, the food arrives and so does Mr.Deshpande. Secretly, I feel relieved I wasn’t spotted alone with 2 thalis. Imagine someone clicking me and sending my pictures viral! Fame, for all the wrong reasons, I’d say.

The Thali is quick to arrive. The same waiter comes back, looking excited and makes small talk. Turns out, he is from Kolhapur and is full of beans at the sight of Maharashtrians. My irritation eases off as soon as he serves Ghee (clarified butter) on top of the Puran poli and Ukdiche modak which by the way look ready for a kill.

Our first bite – and ummmm, the modak melts in the mouth, spreading aroma and sweet flavours of coconut-jaggery like colours in a rangoli. Next, it is the Puran Poli. Soft and fleshy with the right amount of sweet, it is the best poli I have eaten outside home. Next in line is Kanda bhaji – not pakoda (if you know what I mean), with spicy coconut chutney made just like home. The gastronomic encounter continues for the next 30 minutes where I don’t remember glancing even once at the husband who doesn’t break my spell with the Special Thali!

It’s only once I have obliged to leave my empty plate uneaten that I jump out of oblivion and notice that every single table is graced by this thali alone. How can I go without mentioning 2 women, a local and a westerner relishing the spice levels we are raised to enjoy. Not only that, it is my first time witnessing someone eat Puran Poli with a fork and spoon. As it is time to bade goodbye to an afternoon well spent, my heart blurts out, “Annadata sukhi bhava!

P.S. I wonder when will men start proposing with samosa, or ragda pattice or better still, a healthy, yummy ukdicha modak? Instead of buying us diamonds, if only men could turn into master chefs sometimes!! Sometimes, all we need is the comfort food we grew up relishing, albeit cooked and served by another. Time to say, ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya, ukdiche modak gheun ya’.