Monday, June 7, 2010

A Foodie In Exile

I was standing patiently, awaiting my turn at the neighbourhood veggie outlet. The woman ahead had just purchased nearly all the mangoes that were on display, much to my annoyance. It was then I overheard her friend announce “I stopped having mangoes yaa, too fattening”. My head did a 180 degree turn  and took one long look at her. Weight is such a petty reason to give up one of nature’s most delicious treats. Aren’t mangoes the sole reason of existence for many of us, nearly dying in the scorching summer heat? The sweet aroma that wafts from ripening mangoes, the sticky juice that trickles down as you devour big chunky pieces, ah sheer bliss. This passionate diatribe thankfully remained within the safe confines of my head.

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.


  1. :) so true... how life has changed in such a short time...

  2. Hey Purba,
    U don't know how my mouth is watering after reading ur post. U have reloaded all those beautiful tastes in memory. ;-)
    Leading a bachelor's life and that too very far from home has its own big disadvantages; this is more felt during festivals.
    I am happy that I still have the flare for eating which I had. Just that I have to work little harder to "burn" the extra calories;I don't mind doing so. After all, we have only one life to live and enjoy eating...
    Keep writing deliciously! :P

  3. Wonderfully written. Loved the way you have brought out the magic of taste memories. Sad that we are moving towards a 1984like existence.

    Linking this on the Finely Chopped FB page. I am sure there would be many there who would connect with this

  4. Oh its a mouth watering post! ;)

  5. Absolutely beautifully written Purba - landed her from the link posted by Kalyan. Mental conditioning at its highest - whether it is going to be of any long term good, only time will tell!

  6. @ magiceye...we give up, we give in, we evolve...

    @ deosatyakam....We Indians especially bongs, live to eat. Festivals, family occasions, a special we celebrate to eat?

    @ Kalyan... Ah the foodie agrees :) And thank you!

    @ Karan ...It is? Just getting nostalgic.

    @ Nandita..Thank you, glad you liked it :)

  7. I am still so much like you were in your childhood days. I still hog like a cow. I don't mind those extra pounds but I cant live without mom-made delicious and also quite fattening dishes. :P
    By the way, I always like reading your posts. Its so mature and thoughtful. You talk almost like my mom... I mean the intellect. :)

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  9. I loved reading this-whatever happened to eating delicious food-because. So lets be healthy-size zeroes-or whatever...and forget about enjoying life.
    I say-bring the 'mishtees'


  10. Purba,
    Wow...Malpuas...and all those yummy things...
    Loved this mouthwatering blog...

  11. The mention of food is making my tummy hurt here, so far away in Britain where aloo tikkis smothered in spicy chutney is like a pipe dream..:( But what you say is so true. I myself rationalise my cravings for the junk comfort food by justifying that I walked for an extra 15 mins today so I deserve a treat!!!!

  12. At times even i think about these but well the moment there is food in front of me...its all gone....just yesterday i gobbled an entire handi of biryani which was supposed to be for two may be i still have that child in me..who loves trying every kind of food and well once there is a month end approaching i start advertise healthy eating...helps me not feel guilty

  13. Some part of my childhood revolved around Bengal Sweets in GK1.
    Boy those were the best moments - hot jalebis and garam bhaturas..

  14. Nethra.. And I look forward to your comments and your short stories.

    Jayashree.. I can give up anything but mishtees and dark chocolates. Yea bring em on!!

    Vikram..Delicious memories!!

    Journomuse..Btw I love all things mallu, the cuisine, the Kasavukada sarees (can't say the same about toddy). Lucky girl, you get to hog on all things yummy the next few weeks.

    Shahid...You are a young boy, of course you can hog!!!

    GyanBan...Luckily we get hot, crispy jalebis just a few blocks from home. Not a great fan of chole bhaturas.

  15. oh dear ... u r amazingly beautiful at writing ... (as a person too as u have so beautiful memories) !!

    Kids tend to eat more ... n as we get older - we automatically eat less (just by nature .. well exception r always there)... but this is true most of the time ... so kids shouln't really worry that such ... should enjoy life -enjoy food :) as for me - eat what u like n burn the calories !!

  16. Wow!! What a sumptuous post!! Reminded me of my passionate affair with coffee!! You might get offended to hear this: I dont savor mangoes so often as I am told it increases body heat!

  17. Sharmila...WOW, flattered. Yea, I miss those days when me and the husband could finish a kilo of chocolate truffle cake(in one sitting)sans any guilt pangs :))

    Venky..I love my cup of coffee too :)

    Guru..Thank you.

  18. Aaahhh...we jus had a sumptuous ride of a sumptuous meal :)..nice, warm thoughts and beautifully put makes it even more warmer..:)

  19. Ahh yummy food..and now we watch every morsel we eat..feeling guilty after eating a piece of chocolate.

    I am not a mango fan...give me oranges any day..

    Though sometimes my taste buds throw caution to wind and my aim is to satisy them :P

  20. This post brings back the nostalgic memories. Though I am still fighting for freedom from junk food to a more calorie conscious future...the post sure was mouthwatering. And I love mangoes too...

  21. Priyanka... :))

    Lazy Pineapple...And I thought you loved Pineapples.

    The Analyst...Why does everything that tempts your taste buds have to unhealthy?? So unfair.

  22. :-( I think i'll be the only one who has got sad after reading this post. I am currently at such a place where it is almost impossible to have my-home-town-like food. Lucky those who can!

  23. Oh no, unintended :(

    More reasons to look forward to your home town visit.


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