I am a fairly reasonable person and my emotional outbursts are inevitably followed by deep introspection. A few minutes later I was sheepishly saying to myself, who am I kidding, don’t I suffer from food paranoia myself? Chole Bhatura? You must be kidding. How about paranthas...only if it’s sans oil...Ice cream? A teeny-weeny scoop please! Steamed broccoli, sushi? ...yummy, yummy,yummy. Was I always like that? Not really.
As kids, my brother and I would love coming home with Baba from school. It was not something that happened often. But on days luck favoured us; the three of us would make a customary stop for an ice-cream treat. I always managed to finish my portion first while my brother would take his own sweet time to finish his. He would scoop out the ice cream lovingly in slow motion, devouring each molecule, teasing me, prolonging the agony of my by now ice cream-less existence. And now when Baba asks us whether we would like to have ice cream, both of us let out a vehement NO- you don’t want us to get fat, do you? He still likes to think of us as kids, even though both of us are much married with kids of our own.
My childhood memories are inexplicably entwined with my taste buds, as if my tongue had a karmic connection with the heart. The aunt was special because she made the most yumcious kheer. A memorable Holi evening spent with cousins, wolfing down hot aloo tikkis smothered in chutney and finishing off with those divine gujiyas. Standing in the kitchen with Maa, waiting impatiently for the next batch of malpuas, a wintry afternoon on the terrace, sinking my teeth into that crisp gajjak with the sun caressing my back... They are now just sepia tinted memories that envelope me in their warmth when they unexpectedly rush in. And more so, because most of my childhood treats are now almost taboo.
The last decade has seen a sudden awakening to healthy eating, as if we have just woken up from a slumber. Now almost everything edible is burdened with an unhealthy halo. The bottle of coke is no longer a thirst quencher but an evil caffeinated drink, the packet of crisps is cleverly disguised hydrogenated fat. The mango is no longer a fruit that fills your mouth with its sticky sweetness, but 130 odd calories. Carbohydrate can be complex, metabolism has a rate and your body mass has an index. Of course we are eating healthier and looking better in those slim fit jeans. But are we really happier?
What kind of childhood memories will my daughter have? Kids as young as six refuse pizzas because it has too many unhealthy calories. My own daughter prefers frozen yoghurt to ice cream and prefers snacking on multi grain chips. Is it so because she likes it? I really do not know. What I definitely know is, she will not be reminiscing about a lazy summer day spent devouring a plateful of “mishtees” her mom just made. Good for her.