Globalisation brings us some truly great developments – like being able to pick up a chai latte from Renmark Maccas early on a Thursday morning.
I visited India for three months in 2002 – my husband lived there for 18 months and the rest of his family were there for up to 10 years – and still remember the cries of hawkers on the trains: CHHAAAAAIIII, CHAAAAIIII, OMALET, OMALET (sic). At that time I had never come across chai – now it is everywhere.
It’s a bit like dukkah, which is a bit like George’s pesto rant in The Busboy episode of Seinfeld:
(Jerry, George, and Elaine are all eating at an Italian restaurant. George hasn’t eaten anything)
ELAINE: Do you want some of mine?
JERRY: Take some of mine.
GEORGE: Why do I get pesto? Why do I think I’ll like it? I keep trying to like it, like I have to like it.
JERRY: Who said you have to like it?
GEORGE: Everybody likes pesto. You walk into a restaurant, that’s all you hear – pesto, pesto, pesto.
JERRY: I don’t like pesto.
GEORGE: Where was pesto 10 years ago?
I know where chai was 10 years ago – in the thermos of thousands of Indians yelling CHAAIIII, CHAIIII as they travelled around the sub-continent. But I’m sure glad it’s here now – even if it passes only the most minimal of resemblances to its authentic spicy cousin.