A whiff of aromatic dessert, of Kheer, with creamy milk laced with cardamom, desi ghee, fragrant basmati rice and dry fruits wafts past by from a kitchen and I am transported back in time when a conservative middle class family frowned upon eating out. Everything had to be pure, home- made and wholesome.The stress was on slow cooking and the larder was free from pesticides and preservatives.
Foodie obsessions from the past are etched deep into my memory. When I was in school, the taste-buds were stimulated by reading storybooks by Enid Blyton which mentioned wafer thin water-cress sandwiches, tins of tongue, potted meat, chocolate cakes, macaroons, root beer, ginger ale ; these exotic delicacies and midnight feasts which appeared in her story books like a leitmotif, were illusory in nature. Hunger pangs, in reality, had to be satisfied with a humble stale chapati,wrapped up with homemade butter and sugar.
College widened my culinary horizon.I crossed the Lakshman rekha of home cooked snacks and savoured the canteen food where samosa, chola bhatura and dosa were available anytime of the day. Not all parents could afford to be generous with pocket money then so college canteens and restaurants were out of bounds for most of the students. Like parasites, one was forever insanely desperate for a benign host, to be fed to heart’s content.
Marriage and Liberalization coincided and life became worth salivating for. The Spartan middle class were transformed into gourmands. Splurging on food was readily accepted.Restaurants that were intimidating earlier; became places one could visit without feeling awkward. Receptions, birth days, anniversaries, kitty-parties, tempestuous fights of lovers and making up all led to a dining out experience, no longer confined to the elite.
In recent years the change is palpable. Even the local vegetable vendor has moved on. He stocks up kaddo-lauki along with a dazzling display of broccoli, baby corn, mushrooms and bell peppers, sprigs of parsley and celery, with coriander and mint.
Though I am in my Vanaprastha stage, my gastronomic love affair is blossoming as never before. There is so much to choose,from fancy food courts to the humble cart, I can enjoy different cuisine right from authentic continental to the global-desi spiced up version of Chinese, Thai, Italian or Mexican cuisine. Ah! The bliss of feeling fully fed up.
Whenever the maid takes an unexpected break and intuitively guests make their presence felt, I can dial for food and have it delivered at my doorstep in a jiffy.
Even a novice can impress her or his sweet heart by turning the TV on and stir-up a feast. There are master chefs showing how deftly one can make pizzas, juggle colourful salads and make tempting low-calorie meals. In case one misses a step in achieving perfection, web-sites can be visited for a quick update. Another exciting option is the boil-a foil, containing tiny helpings of every popular Indian meal under the sun, in the privacy of home. In the present scenario kitchen angst is virtually non-existent.
In every culinary love story, there is a crafty villain acting as an irritant. A wise sage has commented that an over indulgent foodie follows the deadly cycle of Bhoga, of over eating; followed by Roga, of falling sick due to gluttony and finally discovers the time tested health benefits of Yoga.
The higher the taste quotient, the more lethal are the consequences.The preservatives , extra salt and sugar in every bite can play havoc with the system.The obsession, to finish off smaller portions of left-over food instead of storing it away in the refrigerator, is also injurious to health. The burning off of the calorie intakes is a colossal task for putting on wait is easy,but shedding those layers , gathered in no time, is a daunting task.
For those who are for ever in doubt of eating beyond their kitchen walls; perpetually afraid of the Delhi belly, remember there is a medicine available for every stomach ailment, so shed your fears,eat to your heart's content and pop a pill. Believe in the Epicurean mantra of life, with a twist- eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye diet!