I love winters for one reason: food streets. I also love summers for the same reasons.
When winter arrives, however, street vendors set up shops in every nook and cranny. The aroma of decadent delights amuses the olfactory receptors and makes the mouth water. The stalls of roasted sweet potatoes and spicy corn light up the streets. It does not take much convincing to buy these delights. For some, it becomes mandatory to snack on a concoction of roasted peanuts, corn and chickpeas. The smell of burning wood which comes from under the carts is a sure-shot indicator of the arrival of winter. Some street hawkers also sell boiled eggs on chilly winter evenings. Not only do these scrumptious goodies tingle the taste buds, but they also provide the nourishment needed in the winter season.
Now, it is mid-December, and wherever we go, all localities are lined with vendors offering winter fares. Winter is the season we fantasise about dining outside while on the street and indoors when cuddled up in a blanket or quilt.
The choice is yours.
And I eat outside since it’s not only in Lahore residents’ DNA to eat anything, anytime, wherever, but also to honour street food vendors who brave the cold to make a living.
To sell winter fare, several hundred vendors from adjacent and distant locations travel to the city.
Despite daytime and nighttime temperatures ranging from 17 C to 06, I am always ready to embrace winter with a variety of foods.
Who brings us the winter street treats? Many of them even do not belong to Lahore. They come from places to serve us. Let us value their role to keep our economy rolling and keep us happy with mouthwatering things.
But over the years, I have realized that winter is shrinking. Perhaps, my readers have also realized this.
The shortened winter is not good news for folks like us. When I was in school till late 80s, and in college in the mid-90s, there used to be days in December when there is no daylight and the temperatures were extremely low. Those days have gone, or are very rare, sad to say.
Until the early 1990s, winter began around the first or second week of October, with the peak temperature weeks commencing in mid-November and lasting until mid-January.
Though street food is a year-round industry in Lahore, vendors thrive on it during the winter.
The shirking winter is bad news for vendors. A six-month season has become a three-month affair. I want those nights back when going outside was difficult due to extremely low temperatures; when the day would begin at 10am because of fog, chill, frost and low temperatures outside.
When there is talk of winter, and winter food, how can we ignore tea?
Traditionally, tea is taken when nothing else can be taken. Tea is best taken with friends. It tastes better when, with every sip of tea, one discusses politics, sports, inflation, love affairs, and so on.
While the desire for delectable treats tingles the taste buds and, for the most part, provides the nourishment required during the winter season, nutritionists advise caution.
When winter approaches, vendors who served cold drinks or fruit in the summer switch to winter fare, primarily dry fruit and hot beverages.
I would urge the general population not to drink sabz chai if it has an excessive amount of salt.
There is no doubt that the drink is nutritious due to the milk, but when there is a lot of salt in it, it may cause blood pressure concerns. Our population is already predisposed to high blood pressure. Similarly, we should avoid roasted or fried nuts and instead go for simple nuts. Similarly, I urge my readers to avoid yakhni or corn soup, both of which are high in preservatives and salt.