Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Thoughtful Chews....

20 years ago, no one described anyone as a "Foodie." 

The word did not exist. 

You simply got on with your dal-chawal, amti-bhat, zunka-bhakri, rajma-rice, paratha-sabji or sambaar-rice.  Pangs of hunger away from home, or sometimes even at home, were satisfied at the local idli-dosa-thali place, or some fancy place which served you cream of tomato soup, bread sticks, cutlets and so on, as you skirmished with the cutlery. 

What happened , was the advent "FDI in eating" , and  consequently,  "L(ocal)DI in eating" in response. 

Suddenly, you had long lines of folks, grandparents and all, outside the Golden Arches, and Pizza places.  Not to be outdone, Indian fast food emerged out of the woodwork, and Pav Bhaji, Chats, enjoyed great prominence along with 25 different types of Dosas including Chinese Dosas and Schezuan Idlis with a hint of Ghee. As if mobilizing to oppose the FDI, street food erupted in the form of    Vada Pao, Samosa Pao, Open Air Dosa stands, and even Fruit Juice. Sugarcane juice kind of faded into the background and got replaced with Ganga Jamuna juice. 

I remember waiting in the area outside a popular joint in the Deccan Gymkhana area of Pune, sometime in the early nineties, as the place was super crowded, and a family of ten was going in.  To my intense surprise, a half bent grandma, in a standard cotton nine yard and a no nonsense bun  walked in along with an older shuffling grandpa, with a walking stick, accompanied by young folks dressed just so, and a bunch of overactive kids; all this at 10 PM.

This was a sign that “eating” per se, had become a hobby activity as opposed to a sensible requirement for living.

Institutes now certified folks in cooking and hospitality, it became fashionable to serve normal food in a complicated way, in fancy places, and as a bill, you ended up paying for their décor, watchman and air conditioning. It became infra-dig to even crib about this.   

“Plating” became a work or art, and folks went into raptures over a tiny dark piece of singed meat, adorned with some green leaves ,shiny carrots, some twirls of salad and a streak of some sauce across the plate, as if it was planning to be there, but changed its mind and went off to streak another plate at the last minute. Various drinks suddenly made their appearance, with sometimes risqué and shocking names, and a dollop of some vague alcohol.

Prices in restaurants hit the moon, and strangely, people actually thronged these places.   

Folks introduced what they thought was international cuisine.  Those whose self esteem depended on announcing where they went for dinner and with whom, patronized these places.

Folks joined fitness centres, and suddenly omelettes were white and not yellow, and everyone drank proteins, and bared their abs.  So called celebrities, who did all this, got a vicarious thrill out of saying they were “foodies” , and you wondered about someone stuffing himself/herself and yet showing up and posing, in appropriate three dimensions, with clothes cut just so ( in odd places).

While this may be true of those with money to throw, nothing has really changed for us.

Once in 4 years, we utilize our LTC benefits, go visit the Andamans, gorge on the fish and local delicacies, and five days later we are back, pining for a decent hot Varan Bhat with home-made ghee and pickle.

We spend our free time at home making fancy cakes with icing to die for, and lap up the praise, and then pine for homemade parathas with a dollop of white butter and pickle, as comfort food.

I’ve seen folks who go all quiet and single minded, as they meditate on slurping up the fish curry and rice made at home with the help of an ever-willing pao.

I’ve seen eyes light up in wordless delight as a bhakri off the tawa, is halved and split in layers, releasing a steam so wonderful, that butter simply melts, and the lasoon chutney mobilizes for assault on the taste buds.

I’ve seen chairs being adjusted, as someone prefers, to hike their pajamas, and sit comfortably cross legged at the dining table, now that curd rice with a tadka of kadhi patta and fried chillies was about to happen.

And I have seen the light, reflecting off a Payasam in a silver katori, compete with the light in someone’s eyes.

Su-shi did you say? 

Aiyyo. In my language, these are words for stuff babies do, and you need to keep changing them.

But yes, the diapers just may be Japanese.


  1. Kadhi chawal, eaten with fingers, aloo parantha or methi parantha ... they mean more to me than all the peking duck and manchurian in the world. On this side of the country, gol gappa and aloo tikki is religion. So is kulcha with cholley. Easier on the pocket too.

    Gosh, its lunch time. This made me hungry

    1. I so agree. Besides its tea time here now. Dying for some chaat .... :-)

  2. I for once kinda sorta somehow err... well... I am all for the so many new culture food ! I just love the diversity that we have now.. and I love my gujju daal, bhaat, shaak rotli as much as anything... but I just love the amazing diversity we get now.. ! I love my pizza as much as my khandvi ! I love the khichdi kadhi of patels as much as I enjoy the Pastas :D

    I mean it was only the luxury of travellers to taste various delicacies.. now it comes to us... Malaysian cuisine is picking up ! KFC as well :P

    You know you can call me a foodie... coz all I know is my religion is FOOD ! :P :P :P

    I know I know its not longer simpler ! But I ain't complaining one bit ! :P :P :P

    I love my traditional food as much... I love the diversity... I love the fact that people have made food their prime objective and not just a means to survive :P :P :P

    Yea I am very very very very greedy you know ! :P

    1. Dhiren, it's actually an age thing. When I was your age I was like you, despite the lesser variety or even absence of international foods. When you grow to be as old as me, you will look back and write like I have .... :-)

  3. I loved Hitchy's comment :)...I love the fact that today we can have so much variety in food and at affordable rates at the hand carts :)

    I come from Baroda where eating out from a larry having parked your vehicle near by is like a serious culture...its so much fun to see families just hanging out eating everything from Chinese, to Chat to Ice creams to Faloodas under the open fondest memory is drinking hot 'spicy' chinese soup with Amma Appa Bro and Cousin K standing on the Larry on a cold winter night with the steam coming out of the soup..slurrrrp!

    Darn! I am hungry now!

    1. R's Mom, see my reply to Hitchy. One does get drawn to the various Khau Gullies and stuff, but it is like I have been there, done that..... :-)

  4. A lovely post highlighting the change from food to foodie :) but I agree with hitchwriter.. I like the variety, the diversity , the ease of finding so many options when you just don't want to eat dal chawal. It doesn't mean dal chawal doesn't rate high but I guess it is the greed for food :) Foodie you know :)

    1. GBTP, thank you! But really, at my age, I love imagining that I am eating all the snacky stuff. I used to love it when younger. Its not so much the vada paos and stuff. But I find this ability to get fooled into paying outrageously for things, under the guise of exclusivity, posh environs and so on, amazing today.

  5. I have yet to find something as good as Vada Pau.
    During her last visit to Mumbai,my wife picked up over two Doz on her way to airport.

    1. Yes it is wonderful. When bought from some vendor who has a great turnover rate. Not to be eaten from malls and restaurants. My congratulations to behenji. Lugging 24 vadao paus to the capital is too much!

  6. And that's why, no matter which international cuisine comes your way... home made food, eaten with the company of those you love, always remains the best eating experience. :-) Amen!

  7. I am all for trying out new cuisines, but of course, I always come back to dal and rice, with aam pickle,and definitely eaten with one's own fingers!!

  8. Sometimes its okay to try some new dishes at various outlets but when at home, its dal, rice and pickle which is best for me:)