Can you remember the last time you and your tribe chatted over a mouth watering wada pav in one hand and a hot cup of masala chai in the other. Or the last time you relished a tall glass of chilled lassi instead of a bottle of chilled beer. Or the last time you gave the large round crusty pizza a miss and satisfied your midnight hunger cravings with a soft round luscious dosa.
For many of us, we’d rather come back home to a plate full of steaming hot dal chawal than a leftover platter of pasta from the last night. But with the race that we call life, it has become difficult, if not entirely impossible to cook an elaborate meal that reminds us of home!
But leaving aside the constraints of a hectic life, there are other reasons that are responsible for our gradual but apparent oblivion to the delicious inheritances of our ancestral kitchens.
The nuclear family system is one of them. Remember the days you jumped in joy all around the house, sniffing on the delectable aroma of spices and raw mangoes – “khatti kairi”, while your granny immersed herself in the summer task of filling jars after jars with your ever favourite mango pickle. The joy of coming home to a glass of refreshing home made “Khus Sherbet” was one you could never get tired of. But as we move towards the prosperous western culture of DINKS (Double income no kids) or DWIKS (Double income with kids) we are also moving away from the joint family system that was once upon a time inherent in most Indian families. Most of us today would not be able to pass on to our future generations the recipes that are an integral part of our fondest childhood memories.
While the western culture has enhanced the way of life in many ways, it has also infiltrated many of our cultural heritages. We are surrounded by European café’s, American QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants) and Chinese restaurants. A weekend plan now mostly comprises of trying a Mexican dish or a Thai curry or an Italian sauce at a newly opened eatery. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong about exploring foreign food cultures, the issue arises when in the wake of trying delicacies of a foreign land we forget the varied preparations of our hometown or of our neighbouring Indian states. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hunt down your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe book and attempt cooking and relishing them with your family and friends.
Don’t be anti to foreign cuisines or international food cultures. No, absolutely not. Embrace all the newness that comes your way. New is good. New is exciting. But in that pursuit, do not ignore the rawness that still exists in your ancient cultural cuisines. Give a twist to the old recipes, if you must. But keep them alive. Give them your form, pass them on as your heritage. Take pride in the aromas of those hot spices, in the divine taste of the “Litti Chokha” dripping off ghee, in Mor Kuzhu, the savory of Tamil Nadu, in Macher Tel Jhal, the concoction that represents the undying love of Bengali's for “maachi” or fish, in Raoh ki kheer, made of Sugarcane Juice, a dessert that fills your palate with flavours that go straight to the heart.
Do this so that your coming generations, no matter how far they are from home, are always bound to their roots through their inherited foods!