Dish­ing it Out

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - INDULGE -

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

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