Shankersinh Vaghela

Ever since I returned to India 2 years back, my roasted peanuts of choice have been the one by Haldiram. I used to even buy them to grind them to make peanut butter until I discovered MyFitness Peanut Butter almost exactly a year back.

Recently, though, I hadn’t been able to procure Haldiram’s peanuts. And on a random trip to a supermarket, I found a brand called “Jabsons”. I bought it on a whim, and was super impressed.

The nuts themselves are larger than Haldiram’s, and are crispier. And I notice that the brand markets that it’s from Gujarat, where a lot of peanuts are grown. So far, so good.

And then on twitter, people recommended that I try their flavoured peanuts as well. For the longest time I haven’t been a fan of flavoured peanuts, maybe because I’ve had a few bad ones. I mean, I like the local shop ones, the yellow split masala ones called “Congress” and the red roasted ones called “Communist“.

In any case, inspired by the responses to my tweet, I decided to pick some variants of the Jabsons peanuts on the next visit to the supermarket. I started “safely”, with Black Pepper.

And that was insanely brilliant. Very very awesome. Among the best flavoured roasted peanuts I’ve ever eaten. I even crafted a tweet in my head to appreciate it, but couldn’t post it then because I was on a mini twitter break. I’m writing it here.

Jabsons black pepper peanuts kicks the ass of both Congress and Communist. Given that it comes from Gujarat, I hereby christen it “BJP”. 

And my quest for other flavours of Jabsons peanuts continued. I soon picked up a “spicy masala” flavour. It was a bit spicy for my liking, but I found that it goes brilliantly with curd rice. And then I acquired a taste for it.

Thinking about it, the Jabsons spicy peanuts are somewhat like Congress, but not quite Congress. And they come from Gujarat. Sort of Congress from Gujarat, but not quite Congress. Who does that remind you of?

Well, Shankersinh Vaghela, of course.

So I hereby christen the Jabsons Spicy Peanuts Shankersinh Vaghela. Goes very very well with curd rice.

Kadlekai Parshe

This afternoon I visited the Kadlekai Parshe (groundnut fair) with the in-laws. It was the second time I was visiting the fair, and the first time during daylight (the last time was in 2011, with the wife, and I remember getting incredibly pained with the vuvuzelas all kids seemed to be blowing then). Some pertinent observations:

  1. Considering that it was a groundnut fair, an activity that all visitors could be expected to indulge in would be to buy groundnuts and eat them as they walked through the fair. Eating groundnuts has the externality of skins, and there weren’t enough dustbins to effectively dispose of the skins.
  2. As you might expect in a fair where you have a large number of shops selling pretty much the same goods, prices were largely the same. A litre of raw groundnuts (yes, that’s how whole groundnuts are measured and sold in Bangalore) cost Rs. 25 in most roadside shops, while a litre of roasted groundnuts cost Rs. 30.
  3. We ended up buying groundnuts from several shops, and the quality varied widely, though the price didn’t. Some had too many “buDDes” (groundnuts with underdeveloped nuts), some were not roasted well enough, some were roasted too much and so on. Yet, price didn’t vary by much. This is puzzling since it was possible to sample a couple of groundnuts before making the decision to buy.
  4. There were a lot of people and most of the road space was taken up by pedestrians. Yet, there were vehicles plying (well at a slower rate), leading to traffic jams all around. A better solution might have been to turn the stretch of Bull Temple Road between haLLi mane and Kamat Bugle Rock pedestrian only. Would’ve ensured greater safety and possibly faster traffic flows on alternate routes.
  5. In terms of food, there was a large number of chaat carts, carts selling slices of a kind of thick (15 inches diameter) edible root, carts selling potato chips (which looked quite good and reminded me of Prague where I remember buying similar chips at St. Wenceslas’s Square), etc. Being noon, none of them seemed to be doing much business. Hopefully they’d’ve had better luck in the evening
  6. Stalls were licensed, as I happened to see a license number on a “stall” (basically groundnuts heaped on the ground) selling groundnuts. This is a good move. We need full time licensing of city food carts.
  7. The entire stretch of BP Wadia Road bewteen Bugle Rock Park and BMS College for Women was occupied by Lambani tribespeople selling plaster of paris figurines. Again, around noon, not much business, but enough attention to block traffic on that road.
  8. There was a massive crowd going into the Big Ganesha and Big Bull temples. We steered clear and stuck to the peanuts.
  9. There were a few people with DSLRs clicking away (I was one of those on my last visit). No groups though.

It seems like a fairly fun event. With better management (traffic, dustbins) it can be even better.

Communists and Chintamani

My grandmother Narasamma, who was my last surviving ancestor before she passed away earlier this year, used to make roasted red peanuts. I don’t know the exact process for making them but it basically consists of applying a mix of salt and chilli powder to peanuts and roasting them (or the other way). If there is one thing I’m unlikely to forget about this grandmother, it’s the red roasted peanuts she would make.

I had never eaten these peanuts until when I was about eight years old when this grandmother moved in with us. I can’t really say that I ever got along particularly well with her, but these peanuts more than made up for all of that. Interestingly it was after she moved out a few years later that the supplies of these peanuts started going up. Anyway, in due course of time I had come up with the phrase “ajji kaDlekai” (grandmother’s peanuts) to refer to these peanuts.

Source: Flickr

As she grew older the supplies of these peanuts started drying up and I had to look for other sources. I soon settled upon Srinivasa Condiment Stores (more popularly known as “Subbamma stores”) in Gandhi Bazaar for my supplies. On my first few visits I would just point at it and be told a price and would buy without bothering what the name was. It was less than a decade ago that I discovered that these “ajji kaDlekai” actually had a name.

It was at Subbamma stores that I once went to procure such peanuts and couldn’t find them on display. I asked the shopkeeper if he had “red peanuts” (kemp kaDlekai) and he shouted to his associate deep into the store “one communist!”. It was then that I realised that the popular name of these red peanuts is “communist”.

The etymology is not hard to guess – the yellow “split” peanuts are called Congress (thanks to the congress split around 1970), and they wanted to come up with a political name for other varieties of peanuts also. Thus, being red in colour these peanuts came to be called “communist” (some disambiguation was required here – for there is another variety of red peanuts which are fried rather than roasted. They’ve been named “Oil King”). I don’t know how popular the name is but in Subbamma stores at least these peanuts are called “Communist”. Similar peanuts roasted with green masala are called “green revolution” (unlikely the name ever caught on! ).

When I moved to North Bangalore two years back I no longer had access to Subbamma Stores for my Communist fix. And I had to find stores close to my home there that would supply it. It was hard enough to find so I cultivated several sources (somehow Communist is not as popular as Congress in condiment stores – perhaps reflecting political parallels). Sometimes it would be from Ganesh Condiments in Rajajinagar first block. On other occasions it was the Iyengar’s bakery at the end of my road (but he never got the difference between communist and oil king and so I stopped buying from him). And sometimes as far away as the Ace Iyengar store in Malleswaram.

There was one thing common to the communists procured from these sources though – the label. Each of them were manufactured by a different small scale industry named after a different god. But the place of manufacture was the same – Chintamani town in Chickballapur district. It was after I had seen similar labels several times that it all started coming together.

I remembered that my father was born in Chintamani, which means that Chintamani is my grandmother’s hometown (given how births were conducted back in the 1950s one could infer this). And this explained how she had picked up this skill for making these Communist peanuts – something most of my other relatives (none of whom were from Chintamani) lacked.

I was reminded of all this a while back when I was eating Communists, procured from Gayathri Stores in Jayanagar 4th block (incidentally run by actor Kashinath’s brother). This one came without a label, and when I had asked the shopkeeper (Kashinath’s brother) for the source, he had replied “naave maaDstivi” (we get them made). Maybe the communists I had for a snack a while back weren’t made in Chintamani, but they were crisp and perfectly spiced!

The communists have moved beyond Chintamani!