The other day I was watching Anna Faris getting all riled up about a plate of risotto. She said, not verbatim, that it was a pile of gooey rice and the “Food Nazis” are going to judge that glop. In another show, I saw Aziz Ansari Instagramming pictures of food while Adam Scott, Nick Offerman and Robe Lowe ate on. In yet another show, I heard Kaitlin Olson say, “I am just going to be one of those douches who takes food pictures”
Rings a bell, anyone? I am one of those incessant food picture taker. In my defense, I have taken other kinda pictures too. Food pictures started happening as this whole brigade of Food Nazis and critiques and Masterchef and Facebook and Instagram phenomenon happened. My family still gets irked by the picture taking. Why, just today, a Peking Duck sat on the plate and I was taking pictures. My husband asked, “What do you get out of this?” And I had a very dumb, unprofound answer to that, “Instant gratification”. What am I going to do with instant gratification? Stew it and eat it?
Seriously, what is the need of being a Food Nazi? It’s food. Everyone eats. It’s as banal as breathing. Is there a “Scrumptious Air Buffet” available? (Although I am sure it will be in the future) Chefs are tarnished, restaurants are blamed, there’s name calling over paltry reasons like why your hash browns are not as good as mine. Then there’s the wizardry of weaving words about food. “Holy Basil from the Indian subcontinent infused in free range, locally sourced lamb, which was carved by our master knife-ninja, and cooked for 38 hours on a low flame, lightly basting with zatar and matcha extracts and virgin peanut oil with a side of organic plum tomatoes injected with wild jalapeños and stuffed with shredded mozzarella made from a farm grazing buffalo milk which was milked after the calf was full” That’s just one dish. The critics on Yelp and Facebook and wherever would elaborate it even further by dragging back two generations of the buffalo and lamb and the earthworms that fertilised the tomatoes. Admittedly, some describe food in a most tantalising way, and if you notice, these are the ones that put it simply.
The two most memorable food writings for me have to be Enid Blyton’s and Yann Martel’s. Enid describes toffees and tarts, just like they should be described: sweetly and with a childish delight. Yann Martel, on the other hand, talks about Idli: the South Indian steamed rice and lentil cake. A very simple food that is made almost every morning by the protagonist’s mother who has just tragically died. There is no nonsense around these writings and yet they live on.
My finest dining experience of all the multitude of meals I have had are easily boiled down to two. One, back in 2008, on my birthday, I decided to trek the Himalayas. After eight gruelling hours of witnessing an avalanche unfold, getting stung by unknown thorns and crossing rivers without help, I was so tired, I could’ve just slept on the ground. A local mountain lady, who did not even have a bathroom in her house, cooked me a cauliflower and pierogi stew, and hands down, that is the best food I have eaten till date.
The other one was in 2013, when I was pregnant and could not eat anything except ice cubes. 🙄 I was prescribed medication to keep food down and something that would stimulate appetite. I was at work and we ordered takeaway. And by jove, when the food arrived, I was on it, like a vicious scavenger. It was just a bunch of sandwiches and some Indian fare, but I remember having tears in my eyes while eating, I was so happy.
Both these instances simply point to one theory: When you are hungry, EVERYTHING tastes good. It’s a plain and simple truth. All these “foodies” (don’t get me started on that term) mushrooming up everywhere claiming their unparalleled love for food.. well, let’s just say, I need a baseball bat to deal with them. The constant Instagramming and Snapchatting and Facebooking and Yelping and the orgasmic ooooohs and aaaaahs; bulimic baboons, really. “Eat with your eyes”, they say. What the fudge! “Presentation is important”. I say, “What for?”. It’s food, take it or stay hungry. And those super-effing-annoying minuscule portions in oversized plates. I absolutely detest that. The goop in there looks so delicate and photoshopped, you wouldn’t want to disturb it. You can gobble it in one go and that’s it, meal over! The next day, it’s going to turn to poop and smell like poop.
The whole molecular gastronomy has left me speechless. There’s liquid Nitrogen and deconstruction and reconstruction and flames and smoke and mist and magic. Its like the Cirque du Soleil of food. Honestly, I get lost in that Tantric deviation. It’s okay to do it for TV, but do we really need the theatrics when we are hungry? All celebrity chefs, big or small, will tell you at the end of the day, that their favourite dish is something their moms or wives or grandmas or dads cooked on Sundays. Why? Because, in the end, food is as pedestrian and as essential as sleeping. A bed and a pillow is all you need.
By the by, I am also guilty of embellishing my food stories and constantly taking pictures of what I ate. Yes, I am one of those. And let me tell you, it’s stupid, fucking, daft. I mean, just eat, man!