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How colonialism impacted the way we eat, and still continues to plague our way of eating

We take pride when we show off how many Italian dishes we know about- Risotto, Arancini, Polenta, Ossobuco, Spagheti ala Carbonara, Focaccia and many more.

‘Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what’s for lunch!’ – Orson Welles

Almost 80 years ago, there used to be brass plate which had a rude message- ‘right of admission reserved’ outside many restaurants in CP (Connaught Place), oops Rajiv chowk now.

Angrez chalegaye, paar humari Angreziat Nahi gayi’ comes to your mind when you see such things. We read it in text books or some other writings here and there that the places where Gora sahibs and memsahibs dined used to have prominent boards outside saying that ‘Indians and dogs not allowed’. They said that to your face. Of course MK Gandhi was thrown out of the first class compartment of a train- the person who got us freedom as we were told.

I won’t get into discussing article15 (1, 2) of our constitution which now prevents any such restrictions to be imposed- great. However, we still have that ‘angrezi keeda’ lurking somewhere deep down in our hearts and heads.

You find it so funny that from a dhaba to five stars in India aka Bharat, we write on the Menu card – ‘Indian breads’ for tandoori roti, naan, paratha, kulcha, poori, missi roti, makki ki roti,Lachcha parantha, rumali roti (handkerchief bread?), bajare ki roti, jowar roti – for the love of the goras?- ‘bhai wo hamari bhasha nahi samajhteItna to socho’ goes the argument of chaploos argumentative Indian.

I don’t know how they understand pakora, daal bati choorma, samosa and chaat, golgappa, dahi bada, pao bhaji, maska pao, bhelpuri – try translating these! You will get bheja fry. By the way, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida on his earlier visit had golgappa after golgappa with PM Modi.

What about kabab aka kebab? What about choley kachori, Lucknow ka makhan and Varanasi ka malaiyo? These are exotic.

Such guys may still love Jee 20 instead of G20 as it sounds so subservient no? Unfortunately we still have that inferiority complex- which many may not easily agree to. Wearing Maanyavar brand instead of Marks and Spencer or ‘mochi’ shoes instead of ‘Christian Luboutin’ still does not help much. Made in USA or made in France still gives you a high and you have not quite reached there mentally- made in India. Lot of catching up, emotionally, mentally, and of course physically needs to be done. There used to be something known as made by USA, Ulhasnagar Sindhi Association as well.

Robert Redford said ‘Health food may be good for conscience but Oreos (biscuits please) taste a lot better’. We are so hung up on pronouncing even Italian cuisine perfectly- it is not pizza it is Peetza bro!

Lazania, lasagna or lasagna- the jury is still out. We take pride when we show off how many Italian dishes we know about- Risotto, Arancini, Polenta, Ossobuco, Spagheti ala Carbonara, Focaccia and many more. You may know nothing about these but you have to be purr-fect in pronouncing these lest you look down-market!

If you can decipher all these- like Risotti-, why can’t the firangi understand what is tandoori roti or much easier naan?

There are dozens of types of breads across the world. Let me guess some of these tongue twisters- Baguette, Bammy, Taiyaki, Hotteok, Pretzel, Ciabatta, Kentish Huffkin, Bap, Crumpet and let me stop here. These are mostly western stuff- but English Rotis for me.

We had to learn table manners and use ‘Churee Kanta’ properly- ‘Fork and knife’ yaar. You eat soup and don’t drink- wow. We take pride in eating with chops sticks. So Chineese-ish. We know what are dumplings, croissant, Quiche, Coq au vin and love French onion soup. Oh how English.

In Paris most of us may get horrified to know what is on the menu.

Sample these- L’oursin-sea Urchin, Escargots- snails, Le Cuisses de grenouille (frog legs), Tete de veau (Calf’s head) and it goes on. We love to flaunt knowing what is Ris de veau which is nothing but sweet breads and Tiramisu or Spanish Roscon de Reyes, Natillas,Flan or Leche frita.

My Roman holiday

In Rome I have to do as Romans do- yes I did. In fact I couldn’t. I went to a small bakery in Rome and I wanted to have a pizza. I wanted a chicken pizza and beef was a no no for me. I asked him for a chicken Pizza and said ‘no beef please’. The guy and another girl standing next to him gave a blank look. I said ‘Only chicken’ and he still looked dumb, now in fact dumber. I was hungry and wanted to eat something but he refused to even cooperate. I took a paper napkin and borrowing a pen drew a chicken as good as I could- still nothing! I drew a bull and put a cross on it- still no help. ‘Yeh kya ho raha hai bhai’ was my reaction. Either he was trying to be cheeky or something was drastically wrong. In the meantime, one guy walked in who spoke English and Italian both and help me get a chicken pizza.

I had another such experience in Paris too. Uzbekistan was a clincher. Four of us went to a very big well-lit restaurant with several cars parked outside. We thought it would be a good place to have dinner. Being a bit adventurous, we thought let’s try their local stuff. We could not understand a thing given on the menu. When we spoke to the waiter, he could not understand a word of English. We tried our luck with the manager and still no luck. Finally out of frustration, we walked out and picked up some cheese and bread from a small store to survive the night.

Why we bend backwards?

Before I forget, you know why we keep a quarter plate on the left of the full plate? Most won’t know. Let me explain, the English used knife and fork to slice up the roast chicken or a cutlet on their full plate and broke a piece of bun or bread from the quarter plate with their left hand- and that was the best layout of crockery on the dining table. We eat in a different way, we eat rotis and break a roti to make a morsel (girahin) and do that with right hand and then use the same to dip it in butter chicken or chicken curry from the full plate and put it in our mouth. For us, a quarter plate is better to be kept on the right but what angrez taught us, we still stick to the left and not right- right? So much for western table ‘manners’.

Yet, some eat masala dosa with fork and knife and Aloo paratha and samosa as well!

The India way

G20 dinner hosted for the delegates by president of Bharat had all vegetarian spread. From Mumbai Pao, paatram and chutney, Vanavarnam, Bakarkhani to Kashmiri kahwa and they loved it.

It is a wonderful beginning with a bang. We must teach what we eat and what we wear- world is one family.

‘So often these days Indian food passes for spirituality. I don’t meditate, but I eat two samosas every day!’ – Dan Bern

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Virender Kapoor
Virender Kapoor
Author, inspirational Guru. 'What you can learn from military principles' 'Excellence the Amitabh Bachchan way' 'Speaking the Modi way' 'Winning Instinct - decoding the power within' 'PQ - How it matters more than IQ'

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