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Migoodness, it's a marshmallow

Migoodness, its a marshmallow

By Bikram Vohra

Published: Fri 25 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 1 Nov 2019, 9:44 AM

I am 70 years old and don't know many things. Unlike Francis Bacon, all knowledge is not in my province. Come to think of it, my province is pretty small. Little larger than a squash court, though I am constantly seeking more liquid knowledge to slake my thirst. And among the many things that I did not know is that marshmallows are square multi-coloured pieces of sticky sugar that you chew. I read about them in Enid Blyton books and for years, thought they were some sort of fruit you roasted like peanuts or walnuts.
So, I am sitting here at this east-west dinner and everyone is interrupting everyone else with their travelogues to Gstaad and the Serengeti or that awesome trip to Lourdes and the tiresome effort it is to get a good room in a good hotel in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, one can't stay just anywhere, can one, when these little food items arrive and the hostess says, have a  marshmallow.
So this is what a marshmallow is, I say, woops, it is like spun sugar candy and I thought it was a fruit or a veggie. Most people in my position would have heard the penny drop, picked up the drift so to speak and shut up. Put a sock in it. Let it be. Maintained a dignified silence.
Not Vohra. Vohra soldiers on, regardless of the flak.
You never toasted marshmallows, asks this lady from my part of the map. No, I say, never, had no clue what they were.
Migoodness, she said, with a little tinkle of disdain, toasting marshmallows is so much fun like she and her husband Jiten and kids Bubbly and Dimpy and apple of the eye Monty beta with visiting uncle Dhiren sat around in Ludhiana or Bhatinda shoving mms onto wooden spears and into a fire.
She gives a dry, mirthless laugh, as if to say she didn't know this was an evening for intellectual slumming, where did this one come from, the yellow pages, what sort of people are they calling to parties these days.
Where do you live, asks another guest, you've never eaten marshmallows. No, I say, never, not for over half a century, read about it in the books but never really eaten one.
Countrywoman gives a shrill little trill and says, where do you live, in the boonies, he thought black pudding was sweet, oh this is funny.
And all these people from my part of the world, they are apologising for my faux pas and prattling on about their impressive relationships with mince pies and marshmallows, while  the westerners are all looking at me pitifully as if I was one of those drifters who had drifted in and shouldn't have, and I am looking at this tableau in awe and wondering why I should be ashamed of not knowing there isn't any mince in a mince pie or a marshmallow is a sweet. I still do not know what is haggis, shallots or crème brulee and I am surviving.
Peasant. Member of the great unwashed. Plebe. So down market, country bumpkin.
Guess where these unspoken but highly articulate remarks are coming from. My own kind. On the way back to the car park, I overhear this lady tell her husband that journalist fellow is so gauche, I mean what will they think of us. Tchah.
And the husband, he is nodding wisely and looking ever so worldly, like he was the world's leading authority on marshmallows and oh so worldly  and had been fed black pudding along with gripe water in  his village in Punjab.
By 'they', the lady evidently means the western element at the party. By us, she obviously means all brown billion of us, the majority of which she would not like to associate with, seeing as how they won't be tops on their mince pie knowhow and would think shallots are low levels of water.
I happily  confess that I was 43 when I learnt that Steak Tartare was raw meat and that the exotic sounding Mulligatawny soup was derived from the Indian words "Mullak thani", meaning 'country water', or simply, lentil soup. I had no idea that a scone was a round piece of cake rather than some exotic food item slathered with hot, melting butter. As for a macaroon I thought it was stretched macaroni. As for a quiche don't even go there. So what?  
bikram@khaleejtimes.com




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