Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Food Appreciation


Through our normal daily routine busy lives; we hardly appreciate food. No, I am talking about appreciating the value of food. We very well do it. In fact the growling in our stomach almost forces us to d o it.

I am talking about the 'appreciation' of the flavors, the fragrances, the texture, the taste, the effect of the food on your senses … qualitative appreciation of stuff we consume (solids as well as liquids)

We rush through our lunches as a mere survival activity and a mere formality. We do it coz we have to do it and hardly b'coz we want to do it or we love to do it. We leisurely go through our dinners, slowly and deliberately … not really enjoying the food but eating morsels between the dialogues and ad breaks of the stupid daily soaps (TV variety) that we are often subjected to since the majority vote (read woman vote) of the house are in their favor. We eat absent mindedly staring at the idiot box rather than concentrating or enjoying the food except for when it comes to dessert; where here is a sudden increase in interest towards mundane things like food.

Well … if you are interested in food appreciation; you should try someday going without it.

Yes, it really works. Once a year, during the Jain Festival of Paryushan, I attempt to fast for a day. Fasting here means NOT eating ANYTHING for a period of about 30-31 hours taking only boiled water during a 12 hour window from sunrise to sunset. Its not unlike some other kinds of fasting where you can eat some foods (fruits, dry fruits, sabu dana etc) while not eating some (grains, chapatti, vegetables). The Jain Fast is COMPLETE. No eating anything.

During such a fast (or let's say food depravation), you suddenly develop the food appreciation. You begin to gets wafts of fragrances and flavors from foods that are not even in your line of sight. You can smell what's cooking in the kitchen even if you are in some other corner of the house; something that you would not have noticed all your lives. Food 'looks' delicious. Yes, you suddenly begin to appreciate the 'looks' of the food. You notice the texture of food (something that you did not even know existed). You notice the chapatti and its spots and its comparison to the moon or Africa depending on the skills of the one who prepared it. Food takes on a new life of its own. You suddenly discover a whole new world of food. They seem to develop a magnetism of their own. It seems ironic that the day you are not supposed to consume them, they seem to be extremely tasty and inviting.

You fantasize (yes, I am using the word fantasize and not dream). You fantasize food being consumed by you in slow motion (Hollywood and especially Matrix styled slow motion). You feel the flavor, the texture, the taste and everything that your 5 (or 6) senses can make you feel.

The next thing that happens that suddenly you become acutely aware of every road side vendor, shop, food outlet along your daily paths which you might have not even seen in your years of traversing that path. The fruits and vegetables vendors, the road side stalls of vada pav / bhel / sev puri / dosa …. the small and big restaurants tucked in unseen corners … to the extent you even start noticing 'people' who are carrying food stuff. We notice anything and everything remotely connected to edible stuff. You can smell anything and everything edible.

The advertisements showing any glimpse or hint of food and edible items seems to be a torture designed to discourage you from your fast. Almost seems like a divine cosmic conspiracy against you. 

Such are the effects of food depravation … they suddenly alleviate your appreciation for them.

Why am I writing this now ? (Paryushan is almost 6 months away and I am not even fasting) ….

Well, the GM diet gave me a similar kind of experience. The GM diet is not a fasting diet and it even goes ahead and prescribes stuffing ourselves with designated food. The only restriction is the type of food. Example: First day ONLY FRUITS and Second day ONLY VEGETABLES and Fourth day of Milk and Bananas only. You can't even imagine how tasty, beautiful and delicious the humble 'Roti' seems when you are not supposed to eat it. 


The thoughts above are dedicated to those who DO NOT have appreciation for food. I do not fall into that category, of course. I belong to a family where most members have high food appreciation. To the extent that the women of the family (at least those who have become part of the family by virtue of marriage and don't really carry the same foodie genes we do) often crib about the men (and even kids … genes acting their part) and their fussy temperament about Food.

We appreciate food and we appreciate well cooked food and those who cook them. Quite a few male members are excellent cooks themselves much to the dismay of the ladies at times and relief at other times of need. And much to the chagrin of the ladies, we are quick to point out the slightest deviation from the should-be-taste, often pointing out the deviation and suggesting course corrections. The ladies are wary of our comments like "The dish is good. But a little bit of XYZ and ABC might have made it better" … the XYZ and ABC could be anything from ingredients like salt, lemon, ginger to process suggestions like heating on low flame, churning while cooking, under-cooking and so on.

Of course, I haven't yet mastered the levels of 'suggestions' nor do I have any culinary skills; I am still at the starting point of food appreciation evolution … I am at the pointing-out-imperfect stage and might stay there forever, much to the slight disappointed of my dad and much to the liking of my wife.  

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