The Case Of The Mobile Canteen

I was flying back from a business trip one sunny afternoon a few weeks ago, sandwiched between two glum seniors. About an hour before landing home the flight attendant cheerfully announced that we would be diverted to Syracuse because the airport in Boston was closed due to tornado warnings. 

Senior 1 (who looked startlingly like Golum after a Juvederm treatment) gloomily remarked that there was probably some conspiracy afoot because you see, there ain’t no tornadoes in New England.

Senior 2 meanwhile, was engrossed in an expose on Dignitas (an assisted death enterprise based out of Switzerland, if you care to know). And bored with my own book, I was busily peering over her shoulder.

We stewed on the tarmac in Syracuse for an hour and a half. Senior 2 promptly slammed her magazine shut, much to my chagrin.

And then I broke into a sweat thinking of the Dhansak in my suitcase.

You see, business trip it was, but I had the good fortune of spending two nights with foodie friends who had packed me off with a Tupperware container filled with frozen Dhansak. I had lovingly wrapped it up in a pair of shorts and tossed it into my suitcase, the theory being that it would thaw during the four hour flight and voila! An out-of–the-box (sorry) dinner for me and the boy.

I hadn’t accounted for steamy Syracuse.

I literally sprinted to baggage claim, and hurled myself into a taxi. I called the Boy enroute to throw some rice into the cooker, praying, praying that my cargo was intact.

Fortunately the Dhansak gods smiled on me. And brought back fond memories of other incidents involving friends, family and edible cargo.

Like my aunt who travelled to the US with curry leaves for her daughter's mid-western pantry, carefully stuffed into her travel pillow. A friend's mother who was caught smuggling in yams from Hawaii. The Boy bringing back a box of home-made biriyani all the way from India. My friend and I opening up the most delicious farsaan during a flight to Chicago, while everyone else dolefully munched on their pretzels.

Asafoetida explosions in suitcases, the aftermath akin to a skunk attack at close quarters. A maggot-ridden forgotten bag of pears sneaked in by a doting Amma in the trunk of a car. Festive boxes of wedding sweets lovingly stowed away in the folds of saris, only to be consumed minutes after arrival.

My personal favorite has to be the time I was transporting a box of fiery pickles from India for various aunties in the US, only to have it go AWOL in transit (which transported my extended family into a state of mourning until it appeared, bloody and bruised on my doorstep three days later, leading us to wonder if the customs folks thought I was transporting decapitated heads in jars.)

Dear reader, do you have any war stories about traveling with food? Do share.


  1. My favorite is the story of a nice boy, whose mother slaved for days before his departure to the US, preparing various illegal palaharams. An entire suitcase was packed with the stuff. He was caught at Customs and told that he could not take any of it in. That boy sat down right then and there and proceeded to eat up every last morsel of his mother's palaharam right under the noses of the Customs officials! Just so that his mother's effort did not go to waste!

  2. Happy Diwali to you, A, L & N! And to all your readers.

  3. By the way - the incident I described above really did happen.
    Where are you? I am missing your posts!

  4. Love the blog...Amma and I - both read it!

  5. Shruti - Thanks for stopping by, and the compliment!


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