Heartbreaking news came to me as I stood at the Nirula’s counter earlier this afternoon, and its bearer was a man with a large grin on his face.
Nirula’s has discontinued its mutton sausage pizza.
“Why?” I asked, swaying on my feet. To expand the “Indian” menu, replied the grinner. (“Try our new keema-do-pyaaza pizza, it’s very good.”)
I suddenly feel very old. Just a few days ago I was reminiscing with an old school-friend, Nakul, over lunch (at the Chi Kitchen & Bar, incidentally – one of my favourite restaurants), and I told him that he was central to my first ever memory of a proper Nirula’s meal. A group of us were at the Chanakyapuri branch sometime in the early 80s at a birthday party when I heard Nakul telling the waiter:
“One cheese sausage pizza, please.”
Each syllable was clearly enunciated; even at age 7 he had a deep and powerful voice, seemingly tailor-made for elocution classes or annual school debates. Just as important, he spoke with the confidence of a kid who had eaten at Nirula’s many times before and knew exactly what he wanted to order.
It was my introduction to the idea that things like pizzas could exist outside of Archie comics – that they could be a part of my world too. So I ordered the same thing, trying my best to sound like a veteran, and within weeks the simple, chewy Nirula’s sausage pizza went from being something daunting and unfamiliar to being the best sort of comfort food. In later years it would become peripheral, as I got acquainted with more sophisticated pizzas at more sophisticated restaurants, but it was always just a phone call away. Even my London-based cousin, visiting last year, said it reminded him of his childhood, though he had never spent more than a couple of weeks in India as a child.
And now, it’s gone. Because Nirula’s is suddenly “Desilicious”.
I can be just as desi in my eating tastes as the next guy, but why was this necessary? What next, hot chocolate fudge with a kulfi base?
[Another food-related nostalgia rant here]