Being an avid moviegoer is not a strange thing when you are growing up in India. It is impossible to miss the glitzy movie posters that are located at virtually every nook and cranny of this great country.
In the Indian psyche, there is nothing wrong in indulging in a couple of hours of romance, dance and drama that promise to help you escape the everyday mundane.
No movie is complete without an intermission. This brief period of recess comes at an appropriate moment at a period of high drama or nail biting suspense. It is strategically timed to give you just the right amount of time to empty your overflowing bladder that has been egged on by blasts from the air conditioners and grab a quick bite at the concession stands.
Ever since we were young, we believed that the best nibbles were only available at the movies.
They had the best popcorn, the sweetest slurpees and of course the tastiest samosas.
When my older years led me to foreign shores, I was highly disappointed to find that samosas did not have the universal appeal that they deserved. You could find them in Indian restaurants but never in movie halls.
Instead I had to contend myself with nibbling on snacks that I am glad I discovered.
Sure I love the popcorn and the amazing range of flavours that are now available. Some of the newer restaurants are also serving nachos with dips, grilled sandwiches and steamed corn.
They seem rather tepid and run-of-the-mill alternatives to what should be going in your belly during a nail biting thriller.
Although none of them may be able to replace my favourite samosas, a few of them really came close to changing my mind as to what constituted the perfect mid-movie munches.
The Thai have a spinoff on the popcorn and created one with a Tom Yum flavor.
The Israelis probably realised early on in the game that hummus flavoured popcorn wouldn’t really cut it and opted to create falafel crisps that look like thick bits of thread.
Colombians have probably hit the nail on the head when they started offering roasted ants at the movies. They are a crunchy snack with high protein content and are locally called hormiga culona. They are considered male aphrodisiacs which is a great way of telling your date what your intentions are and enabling her to slip away in the dark if she doesn’t feel a similar vibe.
The Cambodians also offer roasted ants at the movies. They have managed to convert something with zilch appeal into a gourmet delicacy. They have chocolate coated and salted caramel options sitting on shelves right next to the herb and butter flavoured choices.
The Japanese are one up on this and offer ‘tamagogani’ which are tiny crabs that are either salted or sugar coated. They are eaten whole and spare you the horror of sifting through the shell to get at the meat.
In Barbados, you could be watching the latest flick with a plate full of ‘bajan fish cakes’ which unlike their name are actually fish balls made from fresh flying fish. This is a preferable alternative to ‘takoyaki’ which is the Japanese version and made from octopus.
The Koreans used dried cuttlefish as a crispy popcorn alternative.
They are a tad better than eating ‘iwashi senbei’ which is another Japanese snack composed of dried sardines. They taste nice but the smell is definitely something that would keep folks at an arm’s length away.
The Chinese realised that you could make your mouth smell prettier if you followed the same process with plums instead. These tart, slightly salty and sweet snacks called ‘umeboshi’ are all the rage because they are believed to have properties that reverse ageing. So technically if you ate it during a movie you could potentially do a Benjamin Button to yourself and come out a decade younger.
The Dutch prefer eating salted licorice which admittedly is an acquired taste.
The Norwegians thought about it and came to the conclusion that if they were ever going to get anything salted then it may as well be reindeer and that’s why reindeer jerky is a big part of their interval sale.
Drinks are not spared either. Kvas, a traditional Lithuanian alcohol made from fermented rye bread is available at most beverage outlets in cinemas while folks from the Spanish Basque region prefer the infinitely more palatable Kalimotxo which is an equal blend of robust red wine and cola.
The Spanish also have a wonderful tradition of serving sunflower seeds in the cinemas. I am sure that they are healthy and full of vital nutrients but the mess created would definitely be a dampener.
Movie watching hasn’t been less pleasurable without the samosas; crisp ants and reindeer jerky make a strange but great alternative.