Khichdi, did you say?

Just before the recently concluded World Food India 2017 event, there were the mandatory snickers, outraged reactions and sneers – at the announcement of #khichdi being the dish in focus. There was even more derisive chatter of the Twitterati at the news that Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and his team were planning to make 800 kg of khichdi to create a world record. That it eventually turned out to be a 918 kg dish is besides the point.

Oh, why couldn’t we have waited for some western country or multinational to have quietly taken khichdi and sold it back to us? Of course suitably labelled with a catchy description – ‘a nutritious dish made with a mixture of super cereals and lentils flavoured with aromatic South Asian herbs and spiced with a dash of lemon juice,’ or some such drivel. How cool would it have been then to just pick up the attractive packet from a snooty supermarket to heat up in the microwave oven, eh? That is what we are increasingly doing these days. Don’t take my word. Read this story.

And remember, it should be South Asian spices – not Indian, never Indian! (shudder, shudder).

It is this western and foreign fixation that is fast threatening to doom our local produce and which  had made me write a post a couple of years ago. I think it is the perfect time to share it again.

Banish Dalia! Let Quinoa rule!

The other day at the supermarket I was searching high and low for shahjeera. How naïve could I have been! Had I instead looked for cayenne pepper, marjoram, thyme and their ilk, I would have hit pay dirt. The attendants couldn’t find it or had even heard about it, so the supervisor and then the manager were summoned one after the other. The last gave me some helpful advice. ‘Ma’am, no one asks for those desi spices anymore. Why don’t you try out some new dishes with these? They are the hot items.’ If looks could have withered, there would have been one withered store manager in front of me that day.

When did it happen? How did we our store shelves change their character? And how did our palates become this westernized (or pretending to be westernized)? So enamored are we of these videsi stuff that we have begun swearing by foods that once were a one-off thing whether eaten out or cooked at home. No, I am not against global cuisine or even experimenting with new foods and spices, but I object to the relegation of local foods and spices to obscurity.

And I object even more to the ads and programmes that advocate the use of foreign ingredients including the exorbitantly priced olive oil as the best bets for taste and health. Sensible dieticians and nutritionists like Rujuta Diwekar say that any fat is bad, if used in excess of the body needs. Period. They also advise us to stick to traditional oils and fats including ghee in moderation instead of consuming something that is alien to our genes in the name of health. But who is listening? Ads making implied claims that it is fine to eat stuff fried in olive oil are as misleading as the whitening cream ads. But their aim is served with even the neighbourhood grandma having begun frying her chalkis in olive oil to lure her grandchildren, who  hanker after nachos and fries.

What is more alarming is the vanishing of local vegetables and fruits with a whole generation growing up without having heard of a lot of them, leave alone tasting them. Even a small town like Nanded boasts of a shop selling ‘Important’ (imported??) fruits!  Go on, take a look.

How smoothly have these videsi stuff taken over! When sweet corn first came to India, we were sold cute little tubs of the boiled kernels spiced with Italian herbs and cheese. I loved it. But then I also had the option of going for a hot roasted bhutta by the roadside, generously spiced with kala namak , red chilly powder and a dash of lemon juice, when my palate demanded a spicy Indian version. Today I have to search high and low for it without avail, and I bet that at least metro kids don’t know that another variety exists/existed.

And the capsicums!  I used to love this vegetable when they appeared only during the chill months. They cost the earth by comparison to other winter veggies. Today they are as cheap , even cheaper than other vegetables. Do you know why? Because the pizzerias need them and so have made farmers take up to raising them in place of other vegetables, with the result that they don’t have a fraction of the flavour that they once had.

At the weekly vegetable market broccoli and lettuce rule, while the humble ganwar (cluster beans), padwal and their cousins languish in the baskets of old men and women from nearby villages sitting in a corner, waiting for the likes of me to come and give them some business.

‘Chinese kharbuj’ is available all through the year while our very own desi variety is hardly seen even during summer. Washington apples have long since replaced Kinnaur and Kashmiri apples as the preferred variety as have other fruits. Are our fruits exported or have we started growing only foreign fruits, I wonder?

Exotic fruits, but where is my chikoo?

Exotic fruits, but where is my chikoo?

One fruit I really looked forward to during the dreary monsoon months in Delhi was the sweet and juicy soft pear (babbugosha) and the Indian pear (nashpati/nak/berikkai), which is crunchier. Today I get only imported pears that don’t taste half as good. Chikoos are another casualty. Whatever happened to the juicy and sugary sweet Golwadi chikoo, which are not even available in the local markets? Desi fruits and vegetables are becoming scarce and driving up the prices.

Look at some other changes:

  • Oats and cornflakes with their fancy variations have pride of place while their plebian counterparts dalia and poha vie for attention in supermarket shelves.
  • Imported pasta, noodles and Chinese ‘chutneys’ fly off the shelves in double quick time. Already an entire generation swears by the ‘nutritional value’ of Maggi with its various avatars of atta, multi-grain and even oats!
  • Every kind of cheese can be found with imported ones holding pride of place,but where is paneer? They are fattening, didn’t you know? Tsk tsk! Ah, there it is! But I want paneer, not tofu paneer! Sigh!

You get the drift, don’t you?

Cornflakes (two bowls a day) is supposed to give one an hourglass figure in two weeks. How sick can the advertisers be and how stupid can the consumers be if they were to try it? Don’t say that people are not taken in. For every two who can see through the ads, there are twenty who are falling hook, line and sinker for them. Why else do we find bigger cartons and fancier flavours of cornflakes and other breakfast cereals? You can read about how ‘healthy’ these cereals are, here.

That is not all. Pizzas and burgers have replaced samosa and kachori; vada pav is a novel dish to be tried especially since foreign tour guides recommend it!

Finding Chinese spices and sauces (they have even renamed them chutneys to give a desi flavour), Italian herbs, Moroccon cereals and Thai curry pastes is easier than finding our own spices and herbs. At this rate, we will soon be importing subzi masala, sambar powder and the like from abroad or made by Kelloggs or other multinationals and even swear by them. Haven’t we done it with other things like Ayurveda and yoga? Conversations like ‘Have you tried Sara Lee’s puran poli mix? It is awesome!’ or ‘You should try Campbell’s sambar powder. The flavour is authentic!’ (sic) would become commonplace in the not too distant future, mark my words.

Fusion cooking is fine, but for god’s sake, let us at least try out our cuisine, of which there are thousands of dishes before fusing them into some awful mash. It looks fantastic with the lighting and the special effects on screen, but could easily turn out to be ‘Interesting!’ at the best and ‘Yuck!’ at the worst when tried at home.

I know, I know! I am not changing with the times and am a dinosaur, right? Maybe I should make my dal makhni with thyme and cayenne pepper instead of jeera and chilly powder and top it with parmesan cheese (‘It is healthy’) instead of butter (‘Oh no! the calories in butter will kill me!’). And while I am at it, I should replace the dalia in my khichdi with quinoa or cous-cous, maybe? That would surely make me a ‘cool cook’ who is health conscious to boot! Who knows I might even get invited to host some cookery show!

On a more sober note, I might actually end up using just those in the not too distant future as I won’t be able to find the original ingredients anyway!

Read about the fate of quinoa in its native Bolivia. Once the staple of the people there, it has become inaccessible today to them due to the craze for it in the rest of the world.

India could easily become the food capital of the world given its immeasurably vast and varied cuisine that spans the nutritional spectrum and caters to every climate and palate. The World Food India 2017 is an effort in the right direction and hopefully it should bring Indian food into international focus and force it to look beyond ‘curry’, ‘vindaloo’, ‘kebabs’ or chicken tikka masala.

Images courtesy: Top: hospibuz.com  This page: http://www.tatnews.org

60 comments

  1. I like khichdi a lot! One of my fav comfort foods, esp with dahi and tomato-onion-garlic chutney or dhania-pudina chutney. I thought that hullabaloo over khichdi was so silly, quite stupid actually. As if there are no pressing real issues left in our country to outrage over! And oh, I really love daliya too for breakfast 🙂

    Anyway, you bring up some excellent points in the post. We seem to be forgetting the nutritional value of our traditional diets and going gaga over the new videshi stuff. Surely part of it is is our mental slavery – ‘yoga is fashionable because goras and goris do it now’ sort of thing. But then it is also because of aggressive marketing and advertising by certain vested parties. You must have heard about how for decades there was attempt to make coconut oil look so bad that it almost went out of people’s kitchens, and now of course the Western science has discovered the great benefit of coconut oil, so it is all forgotten. Same was the case with pushing all soya products. And no doubt all this changes the farming patterns and even greater havoc results. This is the dark side of economic globalisation.

    I think we need more Indian celebrity chefs, nutritionists, fitness experts and physicians etc to come out and speak more strongly about the nutritional value of traditional Indian meals. Of course, some of it is happening and as a result we see trends like more use of millets, ragi, jaggery etc, these have become more hep things now in some places. But a more widespread awareness needs to happen especially in urban areas.

    Now, having said that I must add that once in a while I enjoy quinoa too 🙂 Mostly as a side salad. But a few times I have cooked it as quinoa poha! It came out really well, or at least I thought so!

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    1. Oh, there ARE no real issues for our channels and media houses except Modi-baiting, which includes baiting him willy-nilly into every issue and sundry! And the outrages are increasingly bordering on paranoia these days.

      I love khichdi and its variants too. I have eaten some of the best khichdi in Gujarat and MP.I can’t think of better convalescent foods than khichdi and rasam rice!

      Not just coconut oil, but so many other things too! The traditional cooking oils had all but disappeared from urban kitchens, till some phoren nutritionist came up with the gyan that our traditional fats are the best for health. Ditto with millets and so many other things. But the cake goes to turmeric latte 😀 As if we havn’t been using haldi for aeons in our cooking, we need some western dietician to tell us about its properties!Of course, a latte sipped in a 5-star ambiance tastes good, doesn’t it? Who wants boring haldi-doodh?

      And yes, there is a reverse snobbery in eating traditional food items as you have pointed out. Which is why they are costing a bomb these days too including bura shakkar and jaggery.

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  2. i am really surprised when in the marriages imported fruits stall is the most crowded one and empties fast. Due to craze of imported cand costly fruit.you know in our parlance price also sets the standard and some fruits are good also.

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    1. Imported fruits are fine to try occasionally, but for my daily dose, give me papita, amrud and their cousins 🙂

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  3. Did you repost this post, Zephyr? It’s even more relevant now!

    I wonder why people poked fun at the Khichdi news. Khichdi is a favorite in our home- throw in some veggies and a wholesome one-pot meal is ready! Also easy to digest.

    Seasonal fruits and vegetables are available all year round nowadays, but have lost their flavor in the process, unfortunately…..

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    1. You remember right, Manju! And you had commented on the original one too 🙂 Thanks so much.

      For me khichdi is always best with veggies. For the non-veggie version, there is always pongal! Paired with coconut chutney or tomato chutney and drizzled with a generous tablespoon of ghee, it is a breakfast worth dying for!

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  4. I’m an out and out country bumpkin and mighty proud of it too!

    We get ‘winter veggies’ only in winter in my town. The neighborhood pansari carries all the spices, herbs and grains that my grandmother would have cooked with. The huge supermarkets with their ‘cool and trendy’ fare are there too, but they stay in their place… which is off of our faces. That’s where they belong, by Gawd.

    As I read this, I kept thing of tumeric latte. I mean. You really need not say anything more about our penchant for all things phoren.

    I hate oats. I have NO idea how people swallow that sticky mess. It made me gag the first time I tried it. Now, if I do buy it, I grind it to a fine powder and mix with a few other flours to make a multi-grain chilla with it Apart from that, no oats in my house.

    Quinoa is yet to enter my kitchen. Also chia seeds and all the other healthy (?) faddy food. Give me my dal-chawal with a slice of mango pickle… or maybe a spoonful of instant green chilly and ginger pickle in LOTS of lemon juice… and I will have reached heaven.

    Or give me my moong dal khichdi with a couple of slices of that super awusome nimbu ka achaar I learnt from Sangeeta Khanna’s blog… and that would it for me.

    Now, I am mystified. Your blog date is of today, but your comments are from 2014. How did you work that magic O wise one? Do be the tellings!

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    1. you are so lucky! I remember the fresh vegetables bought near Gwari Ghat too. The brinjals especially used to be so flavoursome! We had started eating oats, but soon went back to our idli,upma,paratha breakfast. I could eat it only when it was full of spices anyway!

      And I had fallen in love with the khichdi at Jabalpur. The spicy version with lots of vegetables and dal was fit to die for – especially the prasad made at the Sai temple near our house. Did you know our savoury pongal is a simple khichdi too? There are so many variations of this dish across the country that it is about time it is declared the national food. What did they want instead? Pasta?

      I have tried quinoa and chia seeds, thanks to my trips to visit the kids. We can easily substitute one of the many millets we get here for the first.

      There is no mystery to the changed dates. WP gives you the choice to change it and repost it. Try it sometime. So did the tellings. Hope you understandings 😀

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  5. but then mami is that not our fault.. we have become modern hence the name changes.. I remumber going to a shop asking for Methi , they could not understand what i was asking but Fenugreek they understood ..

    the reason I say its us is because how many times have we gone to a restaurant and order a fancy dish and it comes out as one of the Desi ones but maybe with a design ..

    The reason why they are going away from villages and all is again people are not buying them and a farmer is better not sowing them, I know this year we have done the same in our village , Got the imported SEED to oranges and other fruits like “BER” and JAMUN too 🙂 because people want imported ones although frankly i dont understand why .. the Desi ones are much juicer , So the very next field to the house only has the DESI version for our own consumption 🙂

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    1. Et tu Bikram? Now I know whom to blame when I can’t find genuine NAgpur oranges or Kinnaur apples! you are joking about importing ber and jamun seeds, right? Please say yes, Bikram. Else, I will faint with shock!
      I agree about us becoming ‘modern’. I remember my friend once telling me that her maid couldn’t find her handbag in the next room because she had used the Tamil word for bag, which can also mean a jhola. And when she pointed the bag to her, the woman exclaimed, ‘Oh, but you said pai (bag) and not handbag!’

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  6. Hi, just found your blog. I have to say that sometimes I get confused as to what a fruit’s or vegetable’s natural season is, because all of them are around throughout the year. Except mangoes. Imagine eating – and getting – watermelons in December! I live in a hot place where there’s hardly a winter and even then I cannot bear to eat watermelon in December! I haven’t looked for shahjeera in a while. I will now.

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    1. You have said what I had left unsaid in my post — about losing track of the seasonal vegetables as everything is available all round the year. Like you, I can’t eat melons and watermelons in winter either, or methi in summer, or…or…The casualty of all this is the loss of freshness. We eat stuff from cold storage which have lost all the natural flavours. And please let me know when you find shahjeera, especially if you are in India! I am glad you found my blog 🙂 Do visit again.

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  7. so well said. Desi grains, vegetables and fruits are being forgotten. Biodiversity of the land being compromised is the bigger issue.

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    1. The reason I follow your cookery blog is because of all the indigenous recipes you have there. Western dishes and fusion cooking are fine, but a healthy balance between them is what makes for good cooking and eating. And yes, you have raised the valid point of biodiversity being compromised. But as given in the link at the end, provided by my reader A-Kay, it is a matter of time before our vegetables go the same way that quinoa has done in Bolivia.

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  8. This was a smashing post, Zephyr. And I was nodding my head throughout. I have a feeling good sense will prevail soon. There will come a time when we’ll start seeing through these marketing gimmicks and our craze for exotic and go back to local produce. I always preferred the “desi versions’ of vegetables. They may not look as good but they taste much better.

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    1. But by then it might be too late, Purba. As I am discovering every week at the market. Regular stuff are becoming designer thanks to their not being cultivated. So many of our younger generation haven’t seen, heard of or tasted many varieties of fruits and vegetables. Recently I saw some bhutta and eagerly went forward to ask, ‘Yeh desi bhutta hai?’ The vendor fairly bristled and said, ‘Nahi madam. Ye sweet corn hai!’ His tone said, ‘how dare you imply it is desi corn?’ 😦

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  9. And here I am, sitting next to Thyme, Rosemary, quinoa, chia seeds and the likes, stocking up on jeera, shahjeera, jowar, bajra etc from Indian stores here and India, when I come home. It is a sad state when we go all oohs and aahs over quinoa, we should also educate ourselves of what is available in India like dahlia and the wide range of millets to name a few and the imbalance our craze for quinioa is creating: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html. Sad, indeed!

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    1. The humble alsi is the hoity-toity flax seed and our own subja, which is used in falooda is as good as chia in its nutritive value as per some studies. And yet we fall for all things foreign. The Us is colonising the world through its food exports and the world is falling for it without even being aware of it. Thanks for the link, A-Kay. The story of quinoa in its native place, Bolivia is being repeated here too for various foodstuff and the craze of the rich global tourists is harming the poorer locals for whom processed foods are a cheaper alternative.

      I found the last line significant: “Ms. Vásquez said. “The young people don’t want it. If there is a pot of noodles everyone is there, as if noodles were nutritious. Even my children are that way.”

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  10. A discussion close to my heart.

    I am an NRI, and when I come back home, I rarely eat out. Infact, I never look forward to any meal outside of my mom’s kitchen. There are very few authentic places left, everything else is fusion.

    Another thing is the quality of produce and grains. No proper regulation in India, means who knows what chemicals are sprayed. The capsicums you talk about – do you know that they are on a list of produce which is heavily sprayed with pesticides? And all those different colors – might be GMO.

    Our humble khichdi – rice and dal, makes a complete protein. Add to it a dollop of ghee, and you have all the good fats you need. Add to it some vegetables, like peas and carrots, and you make a complete meal for every single age group. Quinoa is a complete protein, but people forget that when you mix rice and dal, that is a complete protein as well. I personally love quinoa, but its not a staple in my house. I love to try fusion, but when cooking Indian delicacies, I stick to the basics.

    As Lata said, the stores here carry ALL international spices, and you can get everything you need. Good quality too.

    I hope we do something about it, as you elude in your post.

    My dad works hard to bring fruits like jaamboo, sitaphal, chickoo, etc for us when we visit. I don’t want them disappearing :(!

    Loved this post and the discussion!

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    1. Welcome to my space Shachi and glad you liked the post and the discussion. Familiar local fruits and vegetables disappearing is a bitter fact and is scary. Chikoos are the biggest casualties closely followed by jamun and guava. Do you know those tiny greenish fruits available in Gujarat and Rajasthan? The ones sold during summers, especially on railway platforms? I haven’t seen them in years!

      I don’t like the capsicums we get these days — huge and flavourless. And yes, the coloured ones must be GM ones. Do you know, on one of his shows, Sanjeev Kapoor made something out of quinoa saying, ‘Ít is fashionable to eat quinoa these days’. He is right, most of the exotic stuff are eaten as an assertion of status than their nutritive value or suitability. Because as you pointed out, the simple dal khichdi and the additions as pointed out make it a clear winner in the race on both counts. With prices going through the roof, one wouldn’t mind paying for one’s own spices and staples instead of for alien stuff. Hope you get to eat your favourite fruits on your next visit to India and that you don’t have to bring some jamun from abroad for your folks 🙂

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  11. As you had said, it is not about refusing to change with times, but the way media promotes imported brand of goods, to the point where we realise that we are pulled into that even without realizing. I think media targets people who show off that they are brand conscious and then spread the virus from them till it reaches the common people, who are also to be blamed. Guests are welcome, but not at the cost of driving out natives who have been around for ages. Good one!

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    1. Rightly said, Ashwini. Guests are welcome occasionally not to squat and drive out the hosts 🙂 What starts as a status symbol percolates down to even rural folk, as pointed out in her Lays example by Anu.

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  12. Bang on, absolutely. We’ve always had a craze for phoren stuff but in foods it is getting crazy. Well, I am a stickler for authentic so if I cook Indian, it had to be authentic and if I cook Italian then I need those ingredients. Even for my chhole, I use anardaana only. Luckily, I have a kirana store close to the house who stocks all these spices that I need. I think we all need to understand that Indian cuisine is one of the most nutritionally balanced and wholesome in the entire world. Every research says that. Add to it is the problem of people shedding cooking like a disease. When you don’t cook at home using recipes passed on from your older generations, you have already lost half the battle. One good thing is that I cook both South Indian and North Indian regularly and I am able to find all the required ingredients easily.

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    1. I know that you even make your own masalas at home, Rachna! But the key word here is the neighbourhood bania, who is disappearing as fast as you can say, masala and shrinking into lanes and bylanes of the old city — whichever you happen to be in. But more alarming is the disappearance of our local produce in terms of fruits and vegetables. So many are already lost and many are in the endangered list.

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  13. jaishvats · · Reply

    Hmm very valid Zephyr. People don’t make ‘set curd ‘ these days. It’s all natural yoghurt straight off the shelves. As you said it’s not wrong trying out different cuisines. But we should not let our own food culture disappear. For one already our Indian food as per phoren peoples definition is naan, dal makhni and Chole thanks to the quintessential ‘Indian restaurant s’. So many authentic regional recipe s have already been lost!

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    1. I always believe that the older generation has a duty towards the future ones and that they should try to perpetuate and preserve the cultural and traditional heritage that they themselves have inherited. This includes cuisine too. You are so right about a lot of recipes have been lost forever due to our penchant for quick fix meals and when the restaurants try to ‘preserve’ them, they can at best be well, commercial about it. The simple vatha kuzhambu can become as costly as a labourer’s daily wages! To say that the children don’t like our food is wrong because we are not giving them those food but the ready mix cereals and mashes from bottles and tins. A healthy bowl of dal and rice with a good dollop of ghee and soft vegetables fed with a story can make any child eat and enjoy the food and grow up to like it. And Jaishree, you have forgotten idli-sambar-vada. Not sure if it is part of global cuisine as butter chicken and naan are, though 🙂

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  14. Yes, indeed – the day of phoren-returned Indian foods is not far off. So, THAT also explains the mysterious disappearance of the Bangalore Kathirikkai from markets here? 🙂

    It would be funny if it were not so irritating to see all that is local being lost, maybe for ever, in this madly commercial and import-crazy country of today.

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    1. Oh yes, there are many vegetables that have been lost forever, and perhaps survive only in the deep interiors of the country. And the chow-chow is one one of them. It is known as Lamku and is also grown in Himachal Pradesh. It was available in Chandigarh a decade and half ago, but I am not sure it still is. What I miss most are the simple fruits — chikoo, guava and oranges.

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  15. Sitting and reading this in the US, I so agree!! Here, people are weaning themselves off burgers and fries, whereas when I went to a food court in Calcutta, the biggest queues were at Pizza Hut and McDonalds!!
    We have so much good, nutritious food..as long as we don’t indulge in all deep-fried stuff, I wish people would be more discerning in selecting cuisine rather than blindly aping the west as usual!

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    1. I feel sorry for the NRIs who come to India once in a while hoping to eat the stuff they had in their childhood, only to be accosted with what they have just left behind 🙂 There was a news report in the papers that said that Indians consume the largest quantity of salt per day and we all know where that salt comes from, don’t we? And like everything else, we will go back to our roots one day hopefully, since we love doing what the West does and they are going back to basics, right?

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  16. Ha, ha! You’ve described the current situation very aptly! Anything “phoren” is a hit with us Indians, apparently. 🙂

    I remember, in earlier years we used to buy the smaller variety of Capsicum, which was undoubtedly tastier. Nowadays we can only find the larger sized ones which come in a variety of colours- Green, Yellow and Red. Taste has become a casualty of size.

    They say the Chinese have successfully completed an experiment to grow vegetables on a space station miles from Earth. I read that because of lower gravity the veggies grow to many times their normal size! Maybe we will be buying those in the near future?!

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    1. Phoren is fine, for a change. Not as a staple that is usuriping the place of our ingredients and cuisine, not to speak of entire families of vegetables and fruits. Come to think of it, it is not just capsicum but almost all vegetables that have lost their flavour and taste. And yes, we will surely be buying Chinese space vegetables. After all, it is just another step (into space) from buying everything else made in China 🙂

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  17. Indeed, I was very pleasantly surprised that after all, there are still some persons, talking in the same wave length, which may be found as out of tune by the present generation of “foreign phobia”. But, rest assured that your sanest advice to stick to local themes and rhymes is a far cry, falling on the deaf ears of westernized Indians, mesmerized by the aroma of western shores . Recently, in oct-dec, 2013, when I visited my second daughter in TORONTO, as also when I was in San Francusco in 2001, I felt that my children and in-laws have imbibed our Indian culture, as they took me mostly to an Indian Restaurant serving hot idlis and masala dosais. There is fusion, not only in cuisine, but in our traditional rich Fine Arts like Music. Fusion in either cuisine or music, can be an experiment at innovation, but can never hope to dislodge the the richest heritage of Indian Culture and Teadition. My only request to the votaries of FUSION is that FOR HEAVENS SAKE, you are at liberty to FUSE, BUT NOT REFUSE OR CONFUSE credulous minds into such frivolous attempts at variety at the cost of a much more richer fare and aesthetic culture and tradition.

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    1. I am surprised as to how my reply didn’t get posted. I am so sorry, GNB. I loved your advice of not to refuse and stop confusing people by fusion 🙂 As I said, I am not averse to western foods or even fusion foods, as we all end up eating Indianised versions of Chinese and Italian foods — but I am absolutely against killing our local produce to give way to alien ones. That is like committing suicide.

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  18. Very tru Zephyr. off late you find many shops that have mushroomed in the cities selling gourmet or fine food as they term it

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    1. Good to see you here, Rathinasankari. The shops selling gourmet and fine food have no space for Indian stuff, did you notice? There are every kind of delicacy, staple, spice and snacks but nothing remotely resembling Indian. It would be funny, if it were not such a serious issue.

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  19. Indeed sad the way the markets are driven with this craze for everything ‘phoren’! It is good to adapt but to belittle our own traditions is best avoided! Wish more Indians could realize how most countries take pride in their own food and traditions! Chicken Tikka has become the national dish of UK while we are running to make ‘Fish n chips’ a part of our own cuisine:)

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    1. Oh Rahul, don’t you realise that we are reciprocating UK’s gesture by adopting fish and chips as our national food? 😀 We are the last to take pride in anything our own, running to disown everything national, food being no exception.

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  20. I am on the same page Zephyr.Changing with the times is OK,but we should not be blind followers of everything ‘phoren’.And just think of the miles these food items travel before we consume them.

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    1. Right Indu! We eat winter fruits in summer, which have been preserved in cold storages for months before reaching us. The same goes for fruits too. What looks bright and shiny and fresh is hardly those. I am perfectly ok with eating phoren food too and even cooking them, but not at the cost of giving up my traditional cuisine.

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  21. Can anyone find a substitute to Chicken Tandoori Masala?

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    1. Ha ha. Well asked 🙂

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  22. So beautifully written, zephyr!!! I absolutely love it, and agree with every word!! And to add to this,…. I used to love the local potato wafers we used to find in bus stands and railway stations. Yes they weren’t healthy, but they tasted awesome and they enlivened many of my journeys. Today, you can’t find them at most places, including rural areas. But you can find Lays!! Shopkeepers are surprised when I ask for the local unbranded ones and tell me that lays is better.. To begin with, it is as unhealthy as the wafers, and much more expensive! Same goes for the santra goli.

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    1. Thanks Anu, for the appreciation. I had been fretting and fuming about so many things for so long and the bhutta experience really was the last straw. Remember how you had offered to buy me some genuine ones? Well this time when we had gone to Shirdi, we managed to pick up some, but had to wade through sacks of it in pouring rain to find the asli desi ones, which were mixed with the American corn. You are right, tentacles of these multinationals have spread far and deep. The rural folk want to show that they are ‘modern’ like the folks they are serving, you see. And sometimes they look down on you for preferring something local! As for eating potato chips from local vendors, don’t forget that we used to have lead-lined stomachs that could digest minor and sometimes major germs too, unlike the delicate darlings we are raising today 😀

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  23. I see ‘mangustaan’, which is our family’s favourite, thank god! But it is very expensive. We can see the trees of this fruit in Kerala, a lot. Yes, I love bhutta! As you said I used to love the American corn with chat masala. I don’t see peenuts , salted and roasted, in theatres, which was our favourite, looong back! Wonly paap carn now!

    A relative of mine who lives in Chicago for the past many years, went to the doctor with her toddler. The baby looked very healthy. The doctor asked the mother what food she gave the baby. Dhal rice with cooked toor dhal, salt and ghee alongwith some boiled aloo, or carrot or beetroot, she said. The doctor was very happy to see that she was following what her family ate all these generations. Some Indian patient had come to her it seems. She was very thin and had some nervous problem also. The doctor asked her about her daily diet. She gave a list of western foods, cooked in olive oil etc. She asked her what she was eating when she was in India, esp. oils. The patient told her about Indian foods. The doctor asked her to change her diet to Indian diet and come back to her after 6 months. She also told the patient to have other foods, once in a while. The patient was very normal after 6 months!

    One of my grand niece who is here is using a lot of foreign herbs instead of our spices. Go to hotels and eat ony western foods! She looks very weak. Don’t know if it is because of food or because of their job which squeezes them and ‘pay’ them well.

    I love berikkai!

    Saraa Lee’s Pooran poli mix?!!! All our children will go for it!

    Your idea to Modi sounds good. The children say that our cooking is cumbersome…too much work. Maggi is easy to make!

    Let us expect some ‘food revolution’ here!

    Enjoyed reading this post, Zephyr!

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    1. Do you know that jackfruit is so expensive? I am surprised it is available at all! And Chinese kharbhuj, (someone tell me the actual name if you know it) is cheaper than our desi one. Salted peanuts are sold by Haldiram for a bomb 🙂 Do you ever get those mango slices on Marina beach? The ones which are arranged like a tiara and sold sprinkled with salt and chilly powder? Why only your great niece? Most youngsters think that if they use the exotic spices, they will be deemed gourmet cooks 😀

      In India, sensible paediatricians advocate the use of traditional foods for babies, but they are also bringing in lot of western ideas and conepts. One of them being not giving children any water till they are 6 months old. I am aghast. Mother’s milk is supposed to be enough. Little wonder that many babies are already falling prey to constipation!

      We export traditional wisdom and then import them back as being Western! As for Sara Lee, perhaps that is how our great grand children will ever hear of Indian dishes and delicacies!

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      1. We still get the mango slices you mentioned in the Marina beach, but not in Elliots beach I think! And boiled peanuts!

        No, even our children have started using western spices and are specialists in making maida pizzas! Wheat Is not tasty, they say!

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        1. I have only been to Marina beach. So it is still available? Thank God for small mercies.

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  24. What? Shajeera chahiye? mujhe bolo na…yeha se bhej thi hoon…sigh! Bang ! Bang! you have said it all, BM. I have never been a fruits person myself so much when I lived in India. We had a guava tree back home and we were tired of sharing them to neighbors. They were bored at a point. And now, we buy each guava $3 per lb and eat each slice as if we are eating some prasadam. So I thought if we go to India, I would savour any fruit that is Indian. chikkoo, seetaphal or any authentic fruit even corn. You have cleared all my myths. 😀 Arre bhai, you are living in Mumbai yaar….choti gaon mein thodi rah rahi hi…the cosmopolitan capital of India..I am not surprised. 🙂 Btw, quinoa has taken a big seat in our pantry next to the rice and wheat flour…their size is reducing slowly. Anddddd I am fusion cook..lol..I cook Quinoa or Pasta pure desi style..okay, I am stopping now…;)

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    1. SEriously, that day is not far off when we will be getting Indian groceries and spices from you guys there 😀 We never appreciate anything till we lose it, as has happened with your guava experience. They are expensive even in small places, Lata. Didn’t you open the link which is a shop in small town Nanded selling ‘Important’ fruits? Do and see for yourself. So you have already adopted quinoa as the ‘healthy’ option, have you? Cooking pasta and quinoa desi style is fine as long as you use real desi spices. What I object to is the complete dismissal of our herbs in favour of paprica, basil, aragula (sounds like the younger brother of Dracula!) etc. to cook exotic food.

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  25. Zephyr, you took the words right out of my mouth. The Dalia Liberation Army needs to be activated, and August Kranti needs to really be about “Quinoa, Go back”. I too have rued the complete disappearance on white bhutta corn, and the influx of foreign fruit in the market. Some of these fruits even have wax polish, and special individual stickers.

    Useful traditional things like jawas/alsi seeds were relegated to the back of beyond, till someone in the west brought them back in the flax awatar. And we lapped it all up.

    I just hope no one goes and starts fooling around with GM Mangoes. Satyanash hoga …..

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    1. I am sure you will come up with a wonderful poem or post about this one, Suranga 🙂 Yes, special stickers on fruits! The first time I saw some chikoos with those stickers in the cold shelf in the supermarket, I was thrilled — till I went closer and saw that they were the hoity-toity kiwis! Oh yes, alsi is the new wonder stuff flaxseed. Shsh….don’t say GM mangoes loudly lest some evil hawa carries it to the destroyers of all things desi.

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      1. Zephyr, you just gave me an idea ! 🙂 And here is Quinoa behaving like Designer Amaranth….

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        1. Waiting to read your take, Suranga!

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  26. But i love my sambar podi flavored pasta! Your post answers the one question that’s always bugged most of us. Why does the food always taste better in the small dhabas and village homes. The ingredients used probably remind us of our mothers cooking! Today’s restaurants with their quick tricks of chemical induced flavors can’t match the natural ingredients for sure. But for how long? Soon the only food our kid will know are the ones that are influenced by masterchef! awesome post, touches a chord.

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    1. But Deepak, did you think of the possibility that one day soon, there might be no dhania in our markets? And then how would you get your sambar powder? We are laughing over it now, but things are disappearing faster than we realise. Even in small towns and villages. Keeping my fingers crossed that you continue getting authentic stuff at least when you are out on your rides. And yes, future generations would believe what cookery show hosts and masterchefs tell them is good for them.

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  27. That is a hilarious post with considerable truth in it.You were candid to admit that you are not changing with times.Taste buds have undergone a sea change.When pizzas,enchiladas,tacos& pastas, lasagne and broccoli fried rice are some of the most popular items among the young things,your nostalgia for relics like pirandai thuvaiyal,vilaampazha pacchadi ,kotthavarangai poriyal and erusseri is misplaced. I could not suppress my laughter when I read about Sarah Lee’s Puran poli and Campbell’s sambar powder. I am an odd man out in my house with everyone else having outlandish taste with weakness for generous garlic.My daughter religiously makes for me our traditional items while they often eat out or get things from the pizza huts or subway or many restaurants around.There are chaat items too in Plenty.I am content with a small qty of curd rice with mavadu or some pickle Luckily in chennai you get ready made easy to cook MTR rava idles,MAS arisi upma mix, and dossier/ Adai mavu for breakfast though my son inlaw takes cereal. May be You are not getting in Mumbai that easily You have written extremely well and in good style. How was Pune trip? regards, K.Parthasarathi

    >

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    1. But I do like pizza and pasta and lasagna and stuff, but I want my rasam saadam and alu parathas too. And I believe in making the dishes with the spices and ingredients that they should be made with. Alu paratha can’t become more nutritious if made with olive oil and I want a spot of ghee to give the tadka for my rasam. Your nostalgia for pirandai thuvaiyal brought a smile to my lips. Can one even find that weed growing wild in our compound? I haven’t eaten it in ages! Thankfully I still find vialmbazham with one of those old people in the weekly market and so make the delicious pachadi once in a way. And KP, I don’t agree that the palates have changed. They don’t know different and don’t want to know because eating the stuff advertised is not only ‘cool’, but also a status symbol. Till one day everything vanishes from our shelves and are available abroad. Then we would import our traditional foods from there and they would be available only in five star hotels 😦

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  28. Very true about fruits & vegetables going western way. The rural fruits are vanishing & now costs a fortune. Here in Bangalore, Jamun fruit & Guava costs 120/- a kilo! Now, Ber, Shehtoot, Bel fruits are not at all seen. Seetaphal is surviving, thanks to Natural fruit ice cream manufacturers.

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    1. The worst thing is that even villages and small towns don’t have these fruits and vegetables. Jamun is still cheap in Bangalore. Once I couldn’t resist buying it in Mumbai for Rs.50 for 250gms! And the taste was not at all good. Not like the tangy astringent ones I am used to from back then. My question is, who is killing our produce and producing GM stuff imported from abroad? As for seethaphal (shareefa in Delhi 🙂 ), I am sure that the kids who lap up the novel flavoured ice cream would turn up their noses when presented with the real fruit 😦 I feel sorry for them for missing out on such a wealth of our produce.

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