A recent comment by an British minister that her fellow country men had forgotten the art of home cooking because thousands lined up at free food centers created a rash of criticisms. The minister had to issue a public apology and explain her comment better. Somehow our country too is gradually heading towards that point.
In Tamil Nadu where I live ready cooked meals, snacks, masalas, instant foods and television dinners are becoming common in cities, towns and even rural pockets. Housewives nowadays do not have to chop, peel, mince, grate or grind anything if they choose not to. All the spices are available pounded, coarse ground or mixed in proportions to suit any gravy and any palate. Similarly vegetables and non-vegetarian stuff are sold chopped, quartered and sectioned according to their needs. The deluge of home appliances that have flooded Indian households for two decades have also eased cooking. Even my maid has pressure cookers, batter grinders, food processor and induction and gas stoves. In fact she finishes cooking before she comes to help me.
In our childhood, going to restaurants was a treat, cherished and remembered for many weeks afterwards. The kormas, parottas, naans and noodles tasted so different from our mother’s meals. Even that has changed now, any restaurant may dish out a multi-page menu card, but the standard items ordered are fried snacks, the butter chicken or paneer based curries and naan, fried rice and noodles. The reason is simple, these are the only items whose taste remains the same and will suit every diet. The other items are either too spicy or too tangy.
The Tamilian tiffin menu of dosas, idlis, vadais, sambar and chutneys continues to rule strong because of its intrinsic qualities. Their ingredients or their proportions cannot be altered and often produce an ubiquitous taste that is heartwarming.
The influx of American fast foods like burgers, pizzas, tacos and others are also another addition to our menus. There are also local versions of these dishes and school canteens are a prime spot to boost up these sales.
However all is not lost, a recent visit to Delhi particularly in the Nizamudeen and Chandni Chowk area proved that Mughlai and Punjabi menus continue to maintain their original taste by using only homemade masalas and without synthetic tenderizers and colouring agents. When our capital can do it, why can’t we? Dear cooks please bring back the stone ground masalas in your gravies to save our wealth and health.
A home cooked meal costs only a quarter of your restaurant bill. Meanwhile restaurant visits should be a novel experience.