Dishing it Out
WELL, IF YOU are above the age of 30, you probably know. That was probably the last generation to come of age in an environment where food was just food. There was no obsessing about the calorific count of various dishes. There was no concern about the harm that sugar/carbohydrates/fat were doing to your health. Food wasn’t something that you obsessed about; it wasn’t something to fetishise on TV shows. Cooking was seen as mere drudgery; there was nothing morsel pass their lips after 7.30 pm in the belief that this will make them thin.
And then, there are those who fancy themselves as ‘foodies’, with an abiding interest in different cuisines and the desire to gorge on them all. They are the ones trying to recreate that dish they saw on MasterChef in their kitchens. They are the ones most likely to whip up a ‘mean Thai red curry’ or bake a ‘flakier than flaky croissant’. They are the ones who plan their holidays around the restaurants they want to eat in. Call them gourmands or gourmets, it matters little. It is food that drives them all.
Food allergies have had their day. Now we justify our exclusionist diets by evoking those two words that strike terror in every hostess’ heart: food intolerance. So you have your regular lactose-intolerant folk, who won’t have anything made from milk (except dahi, it has something to do with lactic acid apparently; but don’t ask me more because the explanation was so boring that I fell asleep halfway through). And then there are the newlyminted gluten intolerant folk (no, they haven’t had tests, silly; they just understand their own bodies so well). But the truly annoying ones are those who claim to be ‘vegan’ because it sounds so much more exotic, when they are, in fact, just plain ‘vegetarian’.
How we eat has become a status symbol. If you eat parathas and dahi for breakfast you are a bit desi. The truly sophisticated would have rye bread and free range egg white omelette. Rotis or dal chawal for dinner? How very infra dig! You should really be having some grilled fish or chicken with a green salad on the side.
As for how we cook – well, we cook mostly to show off. The potluck dinner is a thing of the past. Now, the way to iimpress your friends – or even your boss – is to create a restaurantquality meal in your own kitchen (the more ‘exotic’ the cuisine, the more the bonus marks). If it’s Ittalian, then an easy-peasy pasta or risottor won’t do; you need to put at leasst an osso buco on the table. If it’s ThaiThai, then a simple curry doesn’t cut it; an omelette stuffed with crab would be a better indicator of your skill. If it’s ‘Continental’, then you need to pull out all the stops: savory soufflé, lamb done pink and a chocolate fondant to end. And if it’s Indian... well, really, why even bother?
And remember how the food looks is as important as how it tastes. Because, you know, Instagram. And Facebook. And Twitter. That’s where all those dishes are destined to live on forever, scooping up likes and compliments, long after the meal is over.
Because food is no longer simply food, to be wolfed down as soon as it makes an appearance on the table and forgotten soon after. Now, every meal is something to be mulled over, every dish a photo opportunity, and every ingredient a statement.
So, bon appetit to all you ‘foodies’. As for me, since you ask, I’m sticking to my rajma-chawal!
How has our relationship with food changed over the last decade or so?
For more SPECTATOR columns by Seema Goswami, log on to hindustantimes.com/brunch. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami