Prof. M.P. Gandhi, 88 plus, straight as a silver oak, and playing tennis three times a week at the Bombay Gym.courts, has sent me a packet of the famous Chaatakedar Chivda from Ahmedabad. And, as per his instructions, I am having it nightly with two large pegs of Black Label. It also makes an excellent 11 a.m. break with a large mug of strong tea.
The chivda is actually what is known to every child and adult in Ahmedabad as chavanu, a blend of the Gujrati sev-gathias, mumbra and every other form of savoury possible, peppery and generously flavoured with asafoetida.
And Prof. Gandhi's gift is not just any chavanu. It comes from the Joona Share Bazar Chavanuwalla, located on the verandah (otlo) of the old share bazar at Maneck Chowk.
Gujarat has many such specialities, the gharis of Surat, pedas of Rajikor, murabbas of Navsari. The murabbas are made from mango, sweet, a rich substitute for jam. From Navsari's Kersasp Kolah also come the achars: gor-keri, methiu (ripe mangoes in their entirety dipped and preserved in red-wet masalas). And from Surat come the surtio biscuits, made in old Dutch bakeries. When the Dutch left Surat, they bequeathed their bakeries to their loyal Parsi employees, whose descendants still run them and make the batasas, the nutter biscuits, the nankhatais. For fresh stocks, please apply: Dotiwala Bakery (Full address supplied on request).
Travelling into Gujrat has its own pleasures. The plantains of Palghar (get up early in the morning and buy them on the platform on your way to Bombay), the chikoos of Golwad. These are as famous as the oranges of Nagpur. And I have not passed through Nagpur for a long time now so I do not know, but I remember how they used to have in the old days baskets of oranges, packed and ready, to be sold to passengers in passing trains.
But to return to Gujrat, one of my practices was, on the way in or put of the state, to get down at Vapi and share a taxi to Daman. There spend the morning drinking toddy and the evening a strong smooth liquor made from the mohra flower. Then, after two meals of Bombay ducks, take a taxi back to Vapi and the trains to Ahmedabad for the Chaatakedar Chivda.