Hygienic fare at book fair

A phuchkawallah in apron and gloves dishing out lip-smacking fare in clean plates. The utensils in which the ingredients are kept are covered with a plastic sheet. Even the tamarind solution is being made from bottled water. A man wears a cap, apron and gloves while making and handing out rolls. The sauces he is using are branded, and not of the cheap variety, laced with unhealthy preservatives and colours. Too good to be true? Not at Boi Mela 2008. Snacking has taken a hygienic turn at the Salt Lake stadium grounds, thanks to a pilot project by Bidhannagar Municipality. "A health food consultant recently approached us, offering to monitor the quality of street food in Salt Lake as part of a public-private partnership. It wanted to make changes to roadside stalls to enable them to serve healthy fare,' said Biswajiban Majumder, the chairman of the municipality. "The organisation gave us a demonstration in the last board meeting. We asked them to undertake a pilot project at the book fair,' added Majumder. Under the project, 55 food stalls have been set up at Boi Mela, serving jhalmuri to ice cream. "There are hundreds of stalls dishing out unhealthy food in Salt Lake. We are trying to develop a hygienic format for the stalls,' said Subha Bose, the owner of Bose & Bose Consultancy, which is monitoring the food being sold at Boi Mela. Visitors at the fair are happy with the change. "Street food invariably used to be unhealthy. Which is why I often avoided it so that my children did not fall ill. I love the food at the book fair,' said Aparna Nandi, a resident of Behala Chowrasta, who had come to the fair with her 12-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. "We are strictly monitoring the ingredients in the food,' said Joydeb Bose, who is in charge of controlling the quality of the food at the fair on behalf of Bose & Bose. The stall-holders, too, are learning to live with the changes. "The measures seemed troublesome at first, but we understood that they are necessary as people have became health-conscious. However, the cost of the items will go up marginally, as we have to use quality ingredients,' said Arup Ghosh, who is running a kachuri stall at the book fair.