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.