Eh, what are you going to do?

Dear Readers,

While taking a trip down memory lane today, I stumbled upon an amusing yet jarring memory. Amusing for others. Jarring for me. This incident took place when I was quite small. I really tried to jog my memory to get a ballpark figure of my age but all that my brain could cough up was “Quite small”. Eh, what are you going to do? My parents and I were on a holiday in Goa. My recollection starts off pleasant enough. Strolling down an over-crowded beach with my hands and mouth preoccupied with devouring a cob of corn with the sun setting in the background. Okay, to be honest, the taste of the corn is my only vivid recollection.. the probability of being on a beach( I mean it’s Goa!) with the sun present somewhere in the sky is fairly high.

Maybe my small size made me extra vulnerable. Maybe the sight of me attacking the corn with such fervor was really off-putting but either way I found myself being chased by a cow. That’s right, a COW! Now Readers, there are moments in life that strong arm you into prioritising. And any person in their right mind would choose safety over a corn cob. Not me. Nuh uh. The corn cob and I were one entity. So me, my misguided zeal, and my recently added appendage ran like a maniac fuelled by their nonsensical priorities.

Had this incident taken place outside of India, any neutral party would have declared the cow guilty, and me, just plain crazy. However, in this country, most people’s assessment of the situation would have been clouded by the deep emotional bonds that they have with cows. I understand that they are harmless – not in my experience – but to others, perhaps. Even though I am a little weary of them, I will be gracious enough to admit that their innocent, gigantic eyes do have an endearing effect, and their contribution to providing me with tasty dairy products is much appreciated.

Through the journey of telling you this story, two thoughts struck me. The first one – Why were we holidaying on a beach? We hailed from Mumbai – a place with abundant beaches. Strange. Secondly, why was the cow holidaying on the beach? Come to think of it, their taste in real estate is quite lousy. Why would they spend all their time on our roads amidst us? I mean, let’s admit it, even on our best days, we are tolerable company at best.

Wait a second, have we compelled these creatures to endure our company and compete for our corn cobs? Could the haphazard planning of our country and complete disregard for other creatures have something to do with the accidental sharing of holiday destinations? *Sigh* When did my unreasonable rant turn into sympathy for the nemesis.

Maybe this reality is one that I’ll just have to live with – a cow squatting in the middle of the road, chewing on a blade of grass and the rest of the city whizzing past it… accepting diversity – taken to a whole new level. Eh, what are you going to do?

Yours – in need of a better nemesis,

Panya

Con-Fusion Cuisine?

As someone who tries out different restaurants and watches MasterChef with great zeal, I consider myself to be quite the food maestro. Alas, like any fantasy, this too crumbles under closer inspection. My extensive culinary skills range from being able to turn on the gas to preparing instant packaged noodles. Ok, so maybe a superficial inspection was enough.

Like most Indians, I was made acutely aware of my rather limited palate on a holiday abroad. I was greatly amused when my parents packed a huge quantity of theplas before we left for Europe. On arriving there, I realised that my taste buds were simply inept at handling food that wasn’t submerged in masalas. Guarded my share of the theplas with a ferocity after that.

People in other parts of the world may well appreciate fresh ingredients and respect the produce but for us Indians, guessing which protein/vegetable is smothered in our alchemy of spices is quite exciting. Here is a list of foreign cuisines that are quite popular with us and how they have been improvised for our palates –

Chinese

This one’s a favourite! In fact, most of us know what we are going to order even before we set foot in an eatery.. Hot and Sour soup, fried rice with Manchurian gravy and the infamous Hakka noodles. I highly doubt that our version of these dishes bears any semblance to authentic Chinese food. We have a rather vague definition for Chinese cuisine. If at any point during the preparation of food, one or more ingredients came into contact with Soya sauce, either by accident or intentionally, the food is Chinese enough ( Need to copyright this definition :p ). This definition gives us a lot of room to add Indian influence. I think Manchurian deserves a special mention. It is basically an ingredient (chicken/ fish/ cottage cheese/ baby corn/ cauliflower) prepared in a brown gravy made with soya sauce, ketchup, vinegar, corn starch and seasoning. It can be found anywhere from small food carts catering to broke students outside schools and colleges to high end restaurants satiating the deep-pockets. Versatile food for versatile budgets!

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 Manchurian. Brought to you by – the Indian imagination.

Italian

Until recently, knowledge of Italian food was limited to pizzas and pastas in a wide array of sauces.. red and white to be precise. Now, our awareness has increased significantly when it comes to this cuisine. There are the added varieties of pesto sauce and pink sauce. However, I am pretty sure that the invention of pink sauce (a creative 1:1 blend of red and white sauce) finds its origin in India itself. How can I forget about dessert.. Tiramisu! Sponge cake topped with cream and instant coffee powder. It’s pretty evident that we do not like to stray from the original recipes!

Pan-Asian

Or in other words Thai curry with Jasmine rice. Let’s not faff around when we know that as Indians, those are the first and perhaps only things that come to mind. Thai curry is traditionally a light coconut broth. However, since subtle flavours go undetected by our palate, here in India, it really packs a punch! Yeah, we can make lemongrass pretty boisterous too.

 Middle-Eastern

Shawarma rolls.

enough-said

 

American and Mexican

Actually, these are cuisines where we have not strayed too far from the sidewalk. Exhausted all our imagination with the other ones I guess. The sanctity of the traditional burger has been honoured .. no funky spices have found their way in the slices.. yet! And Mexican food is a quite popular.. rice with beans, potatoes and sour cream. They had us at rice! There are a lot of parallels between American and Indian food.. pancakes to dosas, doughnuts to wadas, ice-creams to kulfis.. maybe going forth, diplomatic relations between the two countries can be built on the strong edifice of food.

I know we have the propensity to take other cuisines and deck them up in local flavours. Any attempts to trace back foreign dishes to their respective nations will be a largely futile attempt. But we promise you that Indianized food will leave your palate wanting more and your common sense telling you no!