Shiny amber-coloured little whirls of sweetness, deep-fried, jalebis are as pleasing as a proper meringue, a good roast potato, or a Black Magic "Liquid Cherry". Crisp shell on the outside, melting on the inside.
It was our mother who introduced them to my brother and me, in Coventry, where we grew up. She nipped into one of those little Indian grocers on the Foleshill Road and returned triumphantly with a brown paper bag, which had already become translucent with syrup. She took out one for each of us, having to separate the glistening orange spirals carefully so as not to break them. Somehow they avoided being sickly sweet.
At around the same time that we were introduced to Jalebis, there lived across the road from our house an Indian family with a boy about my age. We used to play at each other's house. One day, I was invited to his birthday party. His mother made the food and laid it on the table: a birthday tea of the seventies with sandwiches, biscuits and an iced cake. A quintessentially English tea. Save that the sandwiches were filled with a mixture of jam and lettuce. While several of the other mothers at the party looked pityingly at this combination, their children wolfed down the sandwiches until not one remained.
Travelling to India myself many years later, I recall the pudding on my first night: a bowl of spongy balls in a sugar syrup accompanied by, my host told me, sweet pureed carrot. It was too much. I heaved as I forced some down my unwilling throat.
But I did try jalebis once more, bought from a shop in the southern town of Vellore. I managed to drop one immediately after walking out of the shop. Ignoring the state of the ground, I recklessly picked up the jalebi and ate it. The following day I spent in bed. Whether the jalebis had been responsible I did not know. One thing was certain. They were not as good as the ones from Coventry.