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Pigging it in Bhusaval February 18, 2007

Posted by C Y Gopinath in Food.
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If the pigs can have such a feast among Bhusaval’s fresh vegetables, C Y Gopinath doesn’t see why he should be left out

The Vangi Man

WORD SPREAD RAPIDLY among the pigs of Bhusaval’s Bamb Colony that two young fellows were going about removing uteruses. You will not be surprised to learn that Bhusaval’s pigs remained indifferent to this information; they calmly continued poking their snouts into ripe garbage. Pigs are like that; they feel invulnerable when they’re in the sewer. They wake up only when they realise that someone’s got a firm grip on their trotters and a knee in their gut, while someone else has slit their underbelly and is pulling out their hopes for posterity with two fingers. Then the squealing begins.

According to a human source, there are 1,80,626 voters in Bhusaval. There is no count of the pigs because pigs do not vote, so everyone leaves them alone. The esteemed Leva Patil community also ignores them, because fortunately, the pigs don’t much care for the green baingans, which the Levas love to eat, and bananas, which they love to sell.

So you will see Bhusaval’s pigs everywhere — floating like dinghies in the healing vapors of the sewage canal; trundling through main street traffic, uterus intact, with a grunting conference of piglets in tow; investigating the shit along the railway tracks; celebrating among mountains of wet, steaming biomass at the mandi, where amazingly fresh vegetables arrive from the countryside every morning, to sell out by forenoon.

“But,” avers Suresh Reddy, Bhusaval’s famous reporter, raising a gloomy finger, “it is a useless town. ” He is referring to Bhusaval’s crowning glory — that there are more ways to depart from it than any other town in India. Fully 82 trains, up and down, pass the historic junction, not forgetting the more important 65 goods trains, many of them carrying bananas from Leva Patil farms.

“Nobody is interested in Bhusaval town,” says Suresh. “They only want its station to improve.” Living proof of this is that all the line switches were automated over just three days in January this year. The rest of Bhusaval, with its 1,80,626 people, lies unloved, its roads craters, its air full of highway gases, its streets murky and unlit, and its electricity erratic. These days, even the water comes for only an hour at dawn and dusk.

“Some politics is going on,” he adds darkly. He feels the Banana Lobby is at work again.

“Other cities have sugar lobbies, or a jute lobby or a tobacco lobby,” he notes. “We have a Banana Lobby. They control everything. Very rich fellows. All Leva Patils.”

My own theory, that Bhusaval has a powerful baingan lobby, was blown to bits by this. Among the vegetable market’s most distinctive offerings is the luminous white-streaked green baingan, available in several sizes from the plump, fist-sized one that may be slit and stuffed with spices, to the large, coconut-sized numbers that are charred over dung-fires, and transformed into the delectable mash called bharit.

I had already been served Bhusaval’s bharit once, during dinner at the Vaikudes. As I arose, congratulating the Vaikudes with my mouth full, my wife murmured, “Naturally it’s excellent. Leva Patils love green baingans.”

I went cold. The dreaded Banana Lobby. I could just see them on their banana farms, entire families of Leva Patils, ceaselessly harvesting tiny bananas, using as little hired help as possible because of industrial sabotage. The Banana Lobby is constantly aware of its vulnerabilities, specifically to elaichis (cardamoms). A couple of pods planted among the bananas in a goods wagon is sufficient to start a rapid decay. By the time the bananas reach their destination, they will be nearly liquid. And the Levas will never know who did it.

Here, of course, is where the glowing green Bhusaval baingan triumphs. It is immune to elaichis. It isn’t scared of pigs. It hates traveling except, reportedly, to Dombivali, where Mumbai’s Leva Patils are clustered. It enjoys nothing more than a good blistering over a coal fire. And when it grows up, it would like nothing better than to be turned into bharit.

A self-respecting bharit will dominate the meal with its smoky presence. Unlike Punjab’s baingan bhartas, where oil and spices submerge the aubergine, the bharit honors its chief vegetable. It is a five-piece orchestra, smoked, mashed aubergine singing the aria, and solos played by chopped spring onion greens, pounded garlic, green chillies, fresh coriander and, a distinctively Maharashtrian touch, peanuts. A blessing with hot home-made ghee somewhere.

The rest of the meal might include dal, perhaps some chillies dipped in a chick-pea flour (besan) batter and fried, a little pickle, and of course, bhakri steaming hot off an iron tava.

The moment you are served, a strange thing will happen. In an instant, forgetting upbringing, manners, social protocol and goodfellowship, you will abandon all pretense of civility. And turn into one of Bhusaval’s pigs.

______________________

Bharit

(To serve 4-6 people)
Ingredients
Green roasting baingans 1 kilo
Coriander leaves 250 gm
Large green chillies 12
Garlic pods 10 or 12
Peanuts 3 tbsps
Grated coconut 3 tbsps
Oil 100 gms

Method
Separate the coriander leaves from their stems. Fry the green chillies in a little oil, till they blister. Coarsely pound the green chillies and garlic, with a little salt.

Over a coal fire, if you have one, or over a gas flame, roast the aubergines till the skin chars and cracks, While it is still hot, quickly peel off the charred skin. Mash the aubergine pulp to a fine paste, making sure that there are no lumps in it.

Add the chilly-garlic mixture, the shredded coriander leaves, and a little salt to taste. Continue pounding the ingredients together, till you have a smooth and even preparation. Right at the end, heat the oil, and in it, fry the aubergine mash for few minutes. And there it is — bharit as the Vaikudes of Bhusaval make it.

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