On Cravings

What is it about cravings that they hit you at moments when you absolutely can’t get what you are craving for? Is there some really perverse part of the brain that keeps track of the exact moment (and I do mean the EXACT moment) when going out isn’t an option anymore (because the shops are closed, or closing) and then stands up and demands satisfaction? I can’t be the only one familiar with the frantic calculation that occurs when you feel like some pizza maybe, check the time only to find out it is, say, ten minutes to closing, or twenty, and then you start wondering just how fast you can get to the pizza place and whether they’d even take your order if you got there with only five minutes to spare or they’d just say sorry, too late? What exactly is closing time anyway? The time they stop cooking? The time they stop taking orders? The time they stop letting people in? The time they shut the door and/or start pushing people out? But I’m meandering, and I better return to my topic before I lose my way completely.

So, cravings. My major recurrent ones are pizza, chocolate cake, and chicken 65. But the interesting thing is, its not really about pizza or chicken 65. The chocolate cake craving though, is a pure chocolate cake craving. There’s nothing more to it. Dark, moist chocolate cake, preferably crumbled into some ice-cream. No substitutions, no replacements, no satisfaction without. But as for the other cravings, once I thought about it, I realized they weren’t cravings for those foods, but for specific ingredients that went into making those foods. Pizza? its about the cheese. And not even mozzarella, any cheese. And the chicken 65 one is all about the fried garlic and curry leaves usually, although sometimes its simply for something hot and spicy.

The revelation actually did come to me during a chicken 65 craving. I had a craving (during the day time, fortunately) and went out to get some, only to find out that the eatery was out of chicken 65. The waiter suggested Chilli Chicken, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. And then I started wondering why, since I usually consider them almost interchangeable. Pieces of boneless chicken dipped in batter and deep fried, then cooked dry in a spicy, garlicky masala. One major flavour missing was the curry leaves, and I wanted that! But lemon rice has plenty of curry leaves and that wasn’t what I wanted either. That’s when I realized that I needed both garlic and curry leaves. After that it was a simple matter of asking for curry leaves to be added to the chilli chicken, and I was happy.

And so I’ve noticed that I can quite easily satisfy my cravings with foods which, at first sight, have absolutely nothing to do with what I was originally craving. I’ve actually appeased what started out as a chicken 65 craving, with an egg poached in tomatoes and garlic and crushed curry leaves. It doesn’t always work, I mean just like with the chocolate cake, some things just can’t be substituted. And of course there are those cravings that are more nostalgia than anything else. If its one of those desires driving you nuts, I’m afraid nothing but the real thing will work. But as for the rest… At least for me, its a great comfort knowing that a midnight pizza craving can be assuaged by a tomato and cheese sandwich that takes less than 5 minutes to prep.