December 2, 2020

Landour — the story of an unending feast

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By Rahul Verma From The Hindu Life

Long walk. Pancake. Long walk. Pakoras. Long walk. Pizza.

My sojourns in Landour could be summed in these few words. But the walks are getting shorter, and the menu longer. I first went to the little town near Mussoorie, about 300 km from Delhi, 22 years ago. The headquarters of the American missionary community in India from 1850 to 1950, it is the most beautiful little hill station, with a path passing by old bungalows, wonderful for brisk walks and to build up your appetite.

Perpetually hungry

The fact that Landour and food are synonymous has been proved by some seminal works. The first legendary book, The Landour Community Centre Cookbook, was published in 1930.

Members of the community centre’s reading club put together their recipes of soups and salads, main dishes and desserts, and pickles and chutneys.

Another version of the book joined the household a few years ago. The Landour Cookbook — Over Hundred Years of Hillside Cooking has been edited and introduced by two well-known residents of Landour, author and writer-photographer .

It includes many of the old recipes, along with little nuggets about the community, and pithy sayings that Bond’s grandmother would shoot at her perpetually hungry grandson.

“Ruskin Bond and Ganesh Saili share a love for good food — only difference being that Ganesh cooks, and Ruskin devours it. Ruskin Bond admits that he has no business collaborating on an introduction to a cookery book since the extent of his culinary efforts goes no further than boiling an egg. Ganesh, on the other hand, has been known to cook everything from banana fritters to mutton chops,” the blurb says. The book is full of interesting recipes. — chicken pudding, Boston baked beans, Cuban stew and Never fail cake.

Sun and pancakes

I like Mrs A. B. Harper’s recipe for a dish called Eggs in Nest. For this, take 1 cup milk, 1tbsp flour, 1tbsp butter, 1/2tsp salt and pepper, left-over cooked minced chicken, 6 slices of buttered toast and 6 eggs. Make a cream sauce of milk, flour, butter, salt and pepper. Add the minced chicken. Place the slices of buttered toast in a baking dish. Spread the cream chicken on each toast. Take one egg for each slice of toast. Separate the yolks and whites. Beat the whites until very stiff and arrange on top of the creamed chicken in circular forms like a bird’s nest. Place a whole raw yolk in each nest. Bake just long enough to set the yolk and slightly brown the whites. Serve hot.

My Landour food memories are less exotic, but equally fulfilling. I bask in the sun at — a little strip of shops with literally four stores — and dig into pancakes with honey. I have Devdar Woods pizzas stacked with goodies, a layered and oozy Club Sandwich at Emily’s, and a juicy chicken burger at .

At La Villa Bethany, I have had some great meals, including a Garhwali feast, and I never forget to pick up bottles of freshly made marmalade and peanut butter from Prakash Stores.

Landour now translates into four little words for me: Short walk. Good food.

Rahul Verma, who grew up on ghee-doused urad dal and roti, now likes reading and writing about food as much as he enjoys cooking and eating. Well, almost.

IMAGE: The story of an unending feast

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