i went to "the taste" last week. 'the taste of chicago' is a 11 day feastival dedicated to gourmands from all over the greater chicagoland area who try to solve an age old problem. given an infinite number of food choices, a limited amount of money and a stomach with a somewhat finite capacity, how best to fill it while still retaining the train fare to go back. being a member of the ilk that sprints as far as possible at the mention of math , i wasnt too worried about those choices confusing me. the choices were also severely limited considering the fact that i am of the species that eats fruits and leaves. 10 minutes after i'd purchased 11 tokens for $7, those plundering pirates, pillaging poltroons who call themselves chicago's best restaurateurs had decapitated my long, perfectly perforated token sheet leaving me with exactly 1 token. 3 tokens had fetched me a "taste" of some pita,hummus + tabouleh salad (of course i had the recording of "is this vegetarian?" handy and just had to press play to the first pirate) ..a taste being a small portion of the full dish. they should actually be calling that a "sniff" , cos thats all i did once i got the plate of hummus and salad and it'd vanished. one not-so-good funnel cake later i was pretty much done for the day. wandering about in the jostling crowds, i soon got a familiar feeling and the tortoise mosquito coil that should've been the logo for this blog made its appearance in front of my eyes ..rotating slowly.
i was staring at a stall with strings of chillis hanging around the sides with a small crowd of people around. i smacked my lips and waited for my dad. he was somewhere in that crowd trying to justify our long bus ride to get here. he was getting one of those large appalams that combined with the chilli powder,sprinkled on it with finesse, made for one super snack. it was an essential part of our annual summer excursion to what we kids referred to as the egjibichan and the tamil nadu govt referred to as a trade fair. it took place without fail every summer (how we chennaiites differentiate between the seasons is a highly classified topic not covered in this post) on the Island grounds which was surrounded by the perennially stagnant Cooum. there were a lot of stalls put up by different state departments. the only ones i really remember are the police department , probably because of the weirdly scary, smiling statues of policemen saluting, the one for the fire department, which had this fire engine outside and a stall that sold books from mir publishers of USSR.
i was never aware of the politics between india and the erstwhile soviet union. all i knew was that it was an awesome bargain when one could buy bundles of 5 books for Rs.10 each. i would carefully choose bundles that only had russian and ukrainian folk tale books. it was almost impossible though and i would always get one book in the bundle that had puzzles about old men who bequeathed a princely sum of 17 kopeks to their 3 sons and we were responsible for dividing it in a fair manner. the folk tales also had such puzzles but the authors themselves solved them in a rather creative manner by sending the sons on a long journey towards 3 mountains each taller than the other and with a wooden,silver and golden castle on top. of course each castle also contained a maiden each named evening star, morning star and the sun princess respectively who turned into song birds during the day and a evil tsar who guarded them. so at the end the sons would've forgotten about their poor father who'd probably spent his lifetime saving up those 17 kopeks. i clearly digressed there but i guess u get the story. i must've bought at least 3 bundles over a 3 year period of which only the puzzle books survived, the others having being sent on long journeys themselves after "friends" borrowed them.
the other big buy on every trade fair visit was this top + flying saucer. there was this ingenious little mechanical device to which one could either attach a plastic top or a flexible saucer which was pretty good at flying in the air. the saucer would be lost the same evening having being sent out of our second floor flat's window to explore outer space and moments later the top would unsuccesfully try to emulate the saucer. lacking the aerodynamicity it would plummet down to the concrete floor and fail to make the emergency landing thus reducing a 3 component toy to one useless piece which would also be sacrificed to my curiosity.
our evenings at the exhibition would always end at the rides. i would aways go there no matter what to stare at great giant wheel and wonder if i'll ever be brave enough to go up on one. another tortoise coil and there i was back at the "taste" staring at the ferris wheel that'd been put up at one end. the kids on it seemed to be having a fantastic time. i just turned around and went back searching for a stall that would accept my lonely token. where was an appalam stall when you needed it most ?