Wednesday, August 8, 2007


What is HCF? If you ask any dyed-in-the-wool Delhiite this, they are likely to look totally amazed when you say that it's a mathematical type of problem and insist it is a kind of ice cream. And they are right too!
Nirula's was the quintessential Delhi hang-out when I was in college. They were among the first fast food chains in Delhi and had a network of outlets all over town. They used to sell the kind of food most of us hadn't even heard of, like pizzas, hot dogs, footlongs and burgers. They used to add a unique twist to whatever they served to make it Indian - Thandai flavoured icecream, a keema pizza, which used to taste pretty great, by the way, and so on.

When I and my friends were in college, the epicurial height of our ambitions was to be able to afford going to Nirula's. We were usually broke, and when I say broke, I actually mean no money apart from the bus pass in our pockets. Once in a while a few of us would scrape up Rs. 2. 50 and we would order chole bhatoore in the college canteen. Sometimes the pool even rose to Rs. 6 and we could order Chowmein there.

But at the beginning of every month, when we got our pocket money and before we had spent it all, we would do one glorious splurge in Nirula's. We rarely rose to the heights of pizza or burgers unless someone had received money for a birthday. It tended to be their icecream cones, which cost Rs. 6 each. Our favourite flavours included Jamoca almond fudge or 21 love. I remember once a friend agreed to treat a group of 15 or so of us to an icecream each on his birthday. We poor sods were starving after a long day in the Univ, so this was manna from heaven. But icecream, while it may have satisfied our souls, was far from satisfying the ravenous beast within. We eyed the next table longingly where a family of three - dad, mom and kid - sat eating a whole pizza each. Soon enough the family got up and left, and we spotted the kid's leftovers - 5 out of the 6 slices of his pizza. Before the stunned waiter who had come to the table could react, we reached out, knocking over an empty Thums Up bottle on the way, and grabbed the plate of pizza. The pizza was gone before our arms retracted all the way back to our table, as if gobbled by sharks in feeding frenzy.

Once in a long, long while, preferably if someone else was treating us, we would rise to the dizzy sum of Rs. 15 for a Hot Chocolate Fudge or HCF. It used to be served in tall beer-type mugs with a handle on the side. Gloriously thick, gooey chocolate fudge would be poured into the bottom of the mug, topped with 3 scoops of vanilla icecream, then some more fudge would cost the top and then the finishing touch - a sprinkling of roast cashews. This was the king of icecream sundaes, and I still have a soft spot for it, right inside my tummy! Even my cousins from America used to swear by it as the best sundae they had ever had. It would take forever to eat, to scoop up the gloopy chocolate sauce and mix it with the right amount of icecream and nuts in each bite. We often shared it since it was almost too large for even a teenage appetite.

Now of course, caution and an expanding waist has reduced our indulgence in HCFs to maybe once a year. but it still takes equally as long to eat the whole thing - and one had better be hungry too. It costs Rs. 80 now - Rs. 100 with tax - but it's still worth every rupee!

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