When I worked in Mumbai as a bachelor I was at the mercy of what Mumbai had to offer and usually very hard to replicate what ghar ka khaana and swaad for me. Neither is good food easily readily available, affordable nor is it healthy. (one of my friends who used to eat from a road side idli supplier was infected by hepatitis – he learnt it the hard way).
But Mumbai like all great cities would find ways and means of sustaining its vast humanity and like the rice plate, Pav Bhaji, Dabheli etc. there were several ways in which people working could easily manage to get a soulful burst of good food at an affordable price that reminded them of home.
Among the many popular sources also were the Irani cafes.
For me Brun Maska served as one of the most simplest ways to enjoy a cheap yet filling breakfast. While this dish was easily available in the Irani restaurants it was more a staple of the catholics from Byculla and other areas in South Mumbai, and available at the bakeries and stocked at home by them. There would also be the sellers of Brun Maska around tdifferent parts of the city, and usually very reliable to ensure a certain consistency in the kind of taste, texture that each Brun Maska produced.
Brun was simply a bun with a hard crust kinda like the hard baguettes but darker and with a slightly distinct taste. The seller would expertly slice this and quarter this using a serrated knife (the ordinary knife wouldn’t do, that’s how hard the crust was). They would then expertly apply dollops of butter which was the Amul butter (or a version of it). Amul Butter had a distinct taste to it – it was yellow in colour allegedly due to turmeric used to help give it a longer shelf life given lack of refrigerated facilities and the power shortage, as well as salt to help prolong its life. The taste was unbeatable particularly when it was ladled out in such high quantities.
The Brun itself did not have any specific taste but it offered an unbeatable sensorial experience when had with tea. Each bite would involve first digging intot he hard crust and then discovering the soft bread underneath it, and as your tongue would come alive as it contacted the salty butter, and when you gulped a glug of hot syrupy tea all of these sensations would be mixed with hot, sweetness that softly moistened both the crust as well as dissolve the bread and butter and its something that mhelped one come alive each morning. Yes, coffee is a single note experience and almost an apology to what we undergo when you have Brun Maska chaai. The best part about this was how convenient it was for the commuter and the office goer. You simply had to buy this expertly prepared-in-a-jiffy Brun and carry it with you to office, wrapped ina newspaper. And after preparing your hot cup of tea to your liking, gently savour this with the brun.
Happy Days indeed….mmmmm