Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maggi : My comfort food

After wearying out the readers with the detailed development of my new house, let me move on to something which almost everybody likes. This blog is about the universal favorite instant noodle called "Maggi".  
As a kid, I don't recall being passionate about noodles. In those days, it was not very common to have them. Noodles were either cooked by some "avant garde" type relative (usually as an aftermath of a cooking class) or brought from the legendary Kolkata Chinese restaurant called "Peiping" (on Park Street). Peiping was famous for its "Chow chow" (not to be confused with the ill-temper Chinese dog) - which is basically noodles with plenty of vegetables and some gravy and the entire household seem to go gaga over it. I was the solitary voice of dissent, who protested against this Chinese aggression but was summarily silenced by the women in power. My grandmother used to be somewhat sympathetic while my mother used to dismiss it with her characteristic "motherly" one liner -  "He's just being difficult". As was customary in those days, I was usually given the choice of "Take it or stay hungry". 
In 1983, a company called Food Specialties Ltd, along with Nestle, came up with a new product called "Maggi" - a type of instant noodles.  We, of course, couldn't care less about these trivias excepting the all important fact that they came to our school and, as a part of their promotional campaign, gave every one of us a  packet of noodles for free. In those days, such aggressive marketing strategies were unheard of and more so in Kolkata, the so called "hide-bound" metropolis. I proudly took it home and much to my everybody's surprise, fell in love with it. It was, truly, a love at first bite. 
From that instant onwards, Maggi has become a part of my lifestyle. Just like the converts show greater passion that the original believers, I became a Maggi-lover with a vengeance. Our household patronized Maggi as if we are majority shareholders in this company and we have three family members in their board. To give you some statistics : 
Maggi was offering a small steel plate for every 12 empty wrappers of Maggi. In a period of 6 months, my mother managed to collect about 12 such plates at which point Maggi withdrew the offer and completely broke her heart. Which means in 6 X 30 = 180 days, we had consumed 12 X 12 = 144 packets of Maggi - a hit rate of 80%. 
I still recall that Maggi used to come in three flavours, namely Masala, Chicken and Capsika.  Capsica was extremely popular, closely followed by Masala. Masala and Chicken flavours have defied all management theories like Product Life Cycle (PLC) and BCG Matrix and are still extremely popular. Soon other flavors like Tomato, Curry etc and some "heath conscious flavours like "Multigrain", "Atta" etc have evolved. About two years back, they also entered the market of Cup Noodles which, hither to was the forte of Nissin.  In between, they also faced some competition from Top Ramen - who came up with Smoodles (smooth noodles) which were nice (especially their curry flavour) but somehow they could not dethrone Maggi for long. 
In my bachelor days in Pune, Maggi was one of our main stay as far as cooking was concerned. On more adventurous days, we used to add "Chorikos" - the fire brand Goan Sausage into it and avoid adding the Maggi tastemaker into it. We usually used to add cheese / cheese spread into it to somewhat reduce the firepower of the Goan sausages. This delicacy - almost the high-water mark of my culinary career, continued with me for several years till my decrepit alimentary system refused to absorb this any more. Forcing it down the esophagus these days either causes severe acidity or puts the rear side on fire, the next day morning. 
I loved the Maggi advertisements all along. I think one of the first ones was where the kids come home and shout "Mummy, bhookh lagi hay" and the mother beams benevolently and says "Just two minutes". As a kid, I often wondered why my mother's reaction invariably was to scowl and shout back "Go to the bathroom, wash your face and hand etc etc" instead of smiling in such beatific manner. 
Recently, my friend reminded me of another old favorite of mine 
Even their latest one about the cup noodles - "Just add garam paani, aur shuru ho ja jaani" - targeting the new generation of trekkers - is also quite catchy . 
A few years back, I was in IIM Bangalore for a short term management course specially designed for Business Managers. As is usual in such courses, we were given enough assignments to ensure that we never go to sleep till 2 am in the night. After the first couple of nights, we started feeling hungry at around 1 am (an old failing, I always felt hungry when I used to study as a kid). On the 3rd or 4th night, we decided to explore the campus to see if any edibles are available. And wonder of wonders - we discovered a small shop selling Maggi 2 minutes noodles, nicely cooked and garnished with scrambled eggs and stir fried vegetables. For the next 5 weeks, this shop was frequented at 1 am by a group of six 35+ mid level executives from an MNC. Malicious aspersions were cast on our moral characters because of  these nocturnal visits (this shop, incidentally, was located rather close to the Ladies hostel) but our loyalty towards Maggi was far beyond such dastardly allegations. 
Hope this brand survives the test and taste of time and continues to be a gastronomical delight for one and all.

7 comments:

  1. Good one Atanu! Reminded me of the first time in 1993 when a packet of Maggi was bought and made. With out most reverence the pan holding the enticing concoction spreading its aroma was beheld by my bro, me and my mom thinking this Was salvation! The taste left a lot to be desired though.
    The explosion of reactions and expressions after partaking a forkful each, would have shocked any stouthearted Maggi fan of then and now.
    That was then, now Maggi is a regular feature in our kitchen shelves. :)

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  2. Cheers to good old Maggi! The campus cafeteria in Manipal too served Maggi garnished with scrambled eggs and vegetables. I remember my friends and I frequenting the cafeteria when food at the hostel mess was non-palatable...

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  3. Amit ChakrabortyJune 30, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Liked your article, though taste wise I like Top Ramen better than Maggi

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  4. After spending 3 years doing a project for a client named Nestle, I cannot just betray my Maggi. After all, the manufacturers provided for my salary for 3 years :-)

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  5. Nice post. Maggi has been my comfort food for years. From breakfast and bikeler khabar to dinner and midnight snack- Maggi spells the last word in satiating hunger pangs .

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