My dad had, long back, told me this tale of Shahjehan, when he was dumped in jail by Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb had given the cook instructions that his dad be served only one vegetable and one dal for the entire time that he was in jail. Imagine, only one veg and one dal for the rest of his life (forget any non-veg! poor thing!). The only solace for Shahjehan was that he could pick the vegetable and the dal. He consulted the cook and the cook advised him – pick potato and chana dal.
The reason was very simple – potato is one vegetable which can be served in numerous forms, recipes and can be given a different flavor and taste every time its cooked. The same applies to chana dal- numerous preparations and so the repetitiveness for a man serving a lifetime in jail could be reduced.
Potato happens to be my favorite vegetable also. And of course my favorite form of eating it is – fried. There is no other comfort food as fried potato, be it the french fries that have so dominated the food choice of the kids of the 90’s (I am a 70’s and 80’s kid, still); finger chips, as my mom used to make it at home – spiced with some ‘chaat masala’ and ketchup sprinkled and mixed, on a nice monsoon evening when we were kids; or the simple cubes of fried alu (with just some salt) to be put back in some vegetable dish.
Incidentally (luckily :)) I got married into a Bong household where ‘bhajas’ are pretty much a way of life and ‘alu bhaja’ dominates the ‘bhaja’ veggies tally. And now both my 4 yr old daughter and I love gorging on it. Even the ‘dum alu’ (or ‘alur dom’) does not taste half as good if the ‘alu’ in it is not fried, though I did try grilling it in the microwave a few times to avoid the fat and calories (when I was told I need to watch… my weight!) but again though it was good, just not as good as the ‘dum alu’ with fried potatoes. There is just something about the “friedness” of potato which no other veggy can ever get!
So, in my mother’s serious efforts of getting me to eat other veggies, she resorted to cutlets and bread rolls. I didn’t mind the small bits of carrot or beans or cabbage as long as there was ‘alu’ in it and it was fried :). And that’s how I have now taken to getting my daughter also to eat other veggies. However I should confess that she is a much better and evolved eater than I was at her age.
My dad loves roasted potato with some salt-pepper and butter. I did not like it as a kid but now when I think about it, its worth trying again with , well, lots of butter and lime..already sounds yumm.. a nice(r) version of mashed potatoes!