Friday, November 5, 2010

The origins

A few days ago I was passing by my Indian co-worker, Pinter. (Pinter is not his real name and he is not married to Sue Ellen Mischke.) He was eating lunch at his desk, but upon seeing me, motioned for me to come to his desk. Turns out he ordered a kosher falafel from one of the new kosher places near work. Somehow, every time someone non observant or not Jewish on the floor orders kosher, they feel the need to share this with me. I don't mind, I find it peculiar, but cute. Though I do feel somehow responsible if their meal does not meet their expectations.

This time, I could breathe with ease because we had a very happy customer. Pinter was widely smiling and asking me whether I had tried falafel from the new place. "It's very good,"declared Pinter. He described in detail the contents of his pita and commented on crispiness of the falafel balls. "It tastes just like falafel I had growing up." I had no idea that falafel was known in India. I was sure that the dish was of Middle Eastern origin, and also vaguely remembered a conversation with another Indian co-worker where falafel was mentioned, but as a newly discovered food. I was about to unleash all of my thought process on the poor Pinter, but something made me proceed with caution.

"Did you mother make falafel from scratch?" seemed reasonably safe.

"No, we usually bought it." How odd. I think his falafel was getting cold because I could sense the anxiety in Pinter's voice. But I couldn't let go. I had to find out which provinces in India were privy to the secrets of falafel making. Look, I never finished - ok, even started - War and Peace and must fill in the blanks in my primary education.

"Did it taste the same? Was it also in a pita?" I pressed on.

We got back on Pinter's favorite subject, I guess, though I am not sure whether it was his childhood or food, because all of a sudden he started reminiscing completely forgetting about the danger of the perfectly crispy falafel balls turning soggy. He described in great detail the falafel of his childhood, which oddly enough was very similar to the one he was eating right now. Then he seamlessly switched to other memories from childhood and finished with, "We were the only Indian family on the block." Waaaait a minute. What???

And then it hit me. I completely forgot that Pinter was born and bread in Boro Park, the heart of Jewish Brooklyn. He must've told me this a hundred times... Next time I talk to him, I must not forget that he lives in Monroe and does not commute from New Delhi... It would also be nice to bring the guy sufganiyot come Chanukah time. He must miss them like crazy...


  1. Now I'm hungry. Thanks a lot. I can find them around here, but they are best bought from a street cart on a brisk day. I don't know why. I ate them in Israel, and they were sublime.

  2. Your memory's even worse than mine!


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