10/15/15 9:49am

Of Pineapple Kesari and Taste Memory 


Pineapple kesari called to mind sweet, comforting memories.

One of the things I love most about giving food tours of Queens is  the opportunity to rediscover the delicious flavors of such neighborhoods as Flushing through the eyes of my guests. Every now and then I discover something new too, like the pineapple kesari, I found at the Ganesh Temple Canteen on a recent tour.

Typically I order a gigantic paper dosa at the Canteen. The crisp megaphone-shaped crepe never fails to impress. “Is that a sweet?” I asked when I saw a hand-written sign that read “Today’s Special: Pineapple Kesari.” Even before the lady behind the counter said yes I knew I was going to order it.

At first I though the treat was made with carrot like gajar halwa due its vivid orange color. The main ingredient turns out to be semolina or Cream of Wheat as the canteen manager Santana called it. Studded with pineapple, raisins, and bits of cashew the dessert was sweet, comforting, and somehow familiar. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then a taste memory of the orange Jello my dear mother used to make hit me. It also tasted like of lots and lots of ghee.

My tour guests didn’t detect any orange and when I asked my pal Santana whether it had any orange in it he said the only ingredients were pineapple, ghee, sugar, raisins, and cashews. And apparently a mystery ingredient that gave the sweet its vivid orange hue.

The kesari was a one-off special, the remnants of a large batch prepared for an unspecified occasion. Who knows when or if The Canteen will serve it again. Like my all too rare flashes of taste memory, it was a fleeting pleasure, over all too soon.

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