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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

My Constant Friend

I should have started with this one. There has been only one constant and unwavering interest in my life. I am a flake with serious lack of commitment to any one pursuit but this is different. It has stood by my me in bad times (perhaps too much) and has been there to make my good times better and has always received my "fullest" attention. The most loyal of my friends and loves - Food. 

This blog is because considering how important food is in my life, a tribute of sorts is long overdue. It has played such a major a part in everything in my life. It was over a plate of food that I noticed how much I like my then friend, now husband. A lot of acquaintances have turned friends because they knew about the best chat shop, best dosa in town, where they serve the perfect cup of kaapi. When I know examine my list of friends I am hard pressed to come up with someone who cannot wax eloquent about food. 

My love for food like all long relationships has changed and evolved with me.. Growing up in the heart of paratha land I had no appreciation for south Indian food. All sambhars tasted the same, rasam was to be avoided completely and unless it was my mothers divine alu sabji made with sambhar podi I had no time for any of the karis. I envied all my classmates with the parathas and puris and chole and burjis. And the karmic cycle is now being completed with me trying to reproduce my mothers wonderful dishes and making long distance calls for recipes. How could I have been so ignorant? Most restaurants here serve up a half way decent nan and paneer (mughlai food from india is like pizza from italy, our export to the world outside to be made your own) but few try and succeed in capturing the subtleties of the south indian fare. The simple, pristine white, soft, delicious idli, the kootus, the chutneys, the thuvaiyals all with their own flavour, subtle, one of a kind and even (god forbid) healthy. 

When I first landed here I stayed away from all restaurants to avoid any and all traces of meat and meat like ingredients in my food. After the initial months of enthusiastic cooking and carrying dabbas to work I weakened and because visiting the distant Indian restaurant was not always an option I decided to visit one of the nearby restaurants. I was assured that Mexican food was very vegetarian friendly and so off I went. It did not go well. Refried beans came off like a poor cousin of the rajma, the Spanish rice would have tasted so much better if it had been more like paruppa sadam and the tortillas were done wrong because why would anybody make them like this when somewhere in the world people knew how to make phulkas and chapathis? Needless to say I have changed my mind since then. New Jersey has a shocking lack of good Mexican restaurants and I feel their absence dearly. 

Since my arrival here I have been compelled to give new cuisines a shot while also having the opportunity to miss so many fine options from back home. Italian, chinese, malay, thai, sushis all have a place in my heart. My one regret (this one always gets a rise out of my very vegetarian husband :) ) is that I do not eat meat and will never fully experience a world of cuisine that is beyond those shut doors ( damn my upbringing).

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