top of page

004 Salt, Pepper and Childhood Nostalgia

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Visiting a ‘fancy’ restaurant as a child was an experience unto itself. There were soup spoons, forks and knives, white crockery, cloth napkins and of course the salt and pepper shakers. None of these were a standard at our home Marwari dining table.

Salt and Pepper Shakers: Courtesy Rent-e-Vent

The salt and pepper shakers were akin to novel toys for my brother and me. Some were made out of white ceramic, with holes on top shaped in the letters ‘S’ and ‘P”. Some were little sculptures shaped like swans or little children or cats! The ones with salt had raw rice grains in them, to prevent the salt from clumping and save them from Bombay’s unforgiving humidity. And the ones with ‘P’ always spat out a talcum-powder like greyish-white substance.

Tomato Soup and Finger Chips were staple restaurant orders during the early 90's

My brother and I would love to "spice" our food. It felt like a grown up thing to do. The standard starter in restaurants for our vegetarian family, at that time was a generic ‘tomato soup’. The greyish-white powder would be sprinkled onto the red tomato soup, and then stirred slowly with a curved white melanin soup spoon. Accompanying the soup were ‘finger chips’ or French Fries. These would be generously doused in salt and then dragged through a bland, sticky, fake-red tomato ketchup before going into our mouths.

Steel cutlery and salt and pepper packets on board flights in the early 90's

In the Indian Airline flights (the only carrier at the time), my brother and I would wait for the sari wearing air hostess to bring us the meals in the trays. They were like little presents wrapped in silver foil, and accompanied by real steel cutlery. These were the days before 'Indigo cashew nut tins' and pre-ordered meals. In those days, along with the customary and generic 'Indian pickle' and mouth freshener in plastic packaging, there would be two paper packets with salt and pepper. There was a special joy, an instant relish in ripping apart those paper packets and licking the contents straight from our palms!


bottom of page