On my first trip to Pondicherry, I had gone with my over-protective parents and my over-supportive brother. And so, we had to stick to the basics; we didn’t experiment with new cuisine, we didn’t have ice cream, we didn’t stay out after eight, and we never skipped breakfast.
This time, however, I went with a friend. It was easier to try various foods with her than it had been with my parents. She was much more adventurous than I, daring to drink orange juice just fifteen minutes after a cappuccino. And though I preferred to savour the lingering effects of my cortado than to wolf it down with sugary juice, I didn’t say no to trying new cookies. Vegan, they were, and chocolatey.
Perhaps that doesn’t read as dramatic as it sounded in my head, but that’s because, for me, veganism is an expensive affair. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try. But where I live, being vegan costs you at least double of what being non-vegan costs. It’s a treat I couldn’t treat myself to too often. I can afford it once a while but making it a lifestyle — just for the sake of an adventure — isn’t wise.
In Pondicherry, however, we found a bakery that sold vegan chocolate cookies. My eyes bulged at the name tag while my heart soared at the price tag. It wasn’t too pricey. I bought a pack, because no matter how it tasted, I knew I’d appreciate it.
I don’t like sugary stuff, but I’m always game for chocolate cookies. And making the perfect dough and baking the perfect delight is an art I’m trying to understand. So when I saw the vegan cookies, I grew curious, not just for the taste, but also for the ingredients. Since vegan diets shunned cow milk, I wondered if they had used coconut or almond instead. And I wondered which butter they would’ve used. And the sugar — did they use brown, white, fine, caster — perhaps stevia, or agave?
With questions buzzing in my head, I picked up a single cookie and held it in both my hands. It was much smaller than a standard cookie. And yet, the cracks on the surface intrigued me. It seemed dry, and cookies are either chewy or crumbly. I wondered which category vegan cookies fell into. Holding the cookie in my fingers I tried to break a piece of it. It didn’t budge. It didn’t crumble. Chewy then, I decided and gave it a little more pressure. A small brown piece broke off of the cookie.
I looked at the other piece and saw that the inside was also pretty dry. It had no Instagram-worthy chocolate sauce oozing from within, and neither did I see chunks of chocolate chips broken in half. It was plain, and it looked dry.
I put the piece I had prised away, into my mouth. My first thought: it had no overwhelming sugar. It wasn’t mushy, it wasn’t hard. It wasn’t too dry either. As I bit into it, I could chew the buttery flour while the cocoa flavour seeped down my tongue. It felt rich like a brownie, and the crumbly-chewy texture lingered long after the piece had gone down my throat. And then I realised that they hadn’t used any sugar or artificial sweeteners. They had, instead, used honey.
Huh, I thought to myself. Honey. It made sense. Honey makes everything it touches a little chewy and sticky. Perhaps it had made the cookie how it was.
I grew curiouser and curiouser. Perhaps another bite of the cookie would clear it up. And it did. It was honey, I concluded.
Unless, it was something else similar to honey, something I couldn’t recognise. Another one wouldn’t hurt anyone, I thought and grabbed a second cookie. And then a third. And a fourth. And before I knew it, I was down to the last cookie, and I still had doubts. But I knew one thing for certain: I loved the various flavours that vegan cookies blew up in my mouth.
It was worth another trip to Pondicherry.