Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Childhood’s end (the day the comfort food died)

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]


  1. Heart-bleeding, I say. I feel your pain. Is Gaylord (Uppa, uppa ice cream!) still around? I haven't seen it for yonks. I miss it horribly.

  2. :-) :-) :-)
    I understand it... for maggi noodles and horlicks, don't taste the same anymore. :-)

  3. I have always loved Nirula's HCF- that was my first introduction to bliss :) and also the fact that there was more to ice-cream than vanilla strawberry (I was a small town girl).
    And yes, definitely an integral part of childhood.

  4. "It was my introduction to the idea that things like pizzas could exist outside of Archie comics"
    I had my first pizza (mutton sausage from Nirulas) the day that I first saw Michael Jackson's Thriller. Now Michael's gone and the so is the pizza. Sniff.

  5. Sad. Why does everything have to standardize?

  6. This is a sad, sad day in the History of Delhi. Bye bye, Miss desi-american cheese sausage pizza pie. :-(

  7. Duuude - this cannot be. For the longest time I could not bring myself to eat any other Sausage Pizza other than the one served at Nirula's. Just had one a few weeks back in fact (though I have to say it wasn't that great - must have something to do with the fact that I have aged!)
    This suuuuuux.

  8. Did you know, Jabberwock, that they took off the mutton chops that came with my very first taste of mashed potatoes and garlic bread? If you didn't then, sorry to break it to you.

    I hate this attempt to desify everything. If I wanted to eat desi, WOULD I come to Nirula's? NO. STFU.

  9. This is a crime!!!! I feel your pain. I do. Dammit. It was the only pizza in town that still reminded me what it was like to be a kid who justcannotwait yo sink her teeth into pure unadulterated junky-joy. Must all things that are good and true come to a screeching halt because of some freaking marketing ploy?


    p.s. - its worrying to me (on a different more personal note) that as a regular and avid reader of your blog...this is the first time I have ever left a comment. Not much else to say except Pizza moves me.

  10. Is Gaylord still around?

    Feanor: boy, you must be old! Not sure if it's still around but I remember my British-born cousin snickering at the name even when he was six.

    bythewindowsill: do you remember when they changed the flavour of Maggi for a few months? The public uproar forced them to change it back.

    Anon: no, I didn't realise the mutton chops had gone too. My wife is going to be very upset about this.

    ...Not much else to say except Pizza moves me.

    Mandakini: no problem at all, I thoroughly approve of placing pizzas ahead of books and movies!

  11. Five star used to be the best chocolate on earth...but now its chewy avatar is probably the worst.
    Are phantom cigarettes still around?

  12. Rahul: phantom cigarettes - I hadn't even thought about them for years! Haven't seen them around recently.

  13. well I'm happy fatafat is still around. I never liked those cigarettes, although they were pretty cool as a thing, in retrospect.

  14. After visiting it regularly, this is the first time i'm posting a comment on your blog, because of the bond I share with the mutton sausage pizza!

    Over the last ten years, I feel proud to have converted a lot of oblivious delhi new comers into MSP fans... so must have many others. This is sad news.. but I have a feeling Nirulas will bring it back..

  15. I bet even at age 7, you had awesome murder skills. You are a natural born killer after all. If I remember correctly, you once ordered steak just to irritate an annoying vegetarian. You didn't write (but it is a well known fact), that you carved him with the steak knife afterwards. I fear that someone in Nirula's kitchen/management is going to die soon. I want to capture the scene on grainy footage with a hand-held camera.