Monday, March 10, 2008

The Good food

North Indian food is rich and fattening. They use dollops of clarified butter, locally called Ghee and the slick makes you lick your finger-tips like a greedy hog. Ghee and weddings are complimentary in India and I think the only other major culture remotely fond of Ghee is the Egyptian. Besides some north African tribes in Eritrea use it.

I made it to two weddings in the last one fortnight. A Jain and a Muslim feast. While I regard the confluence of cultures – and India being the melting pot of human diversity – I daresay that I find Muslim cuisine the very best. They make regal food and it smacks of heaven. At the Jain nuptials, the priest went about spraying holy water and sprinkling ghee everywhere.

And before my critics take out their knives and forks to assail me on the sacred altar of vegetarian and non-vegetarian bones, let me confess that it is not about the lamb versus ladoos [sugary gram flour balls] debate. My point is that the entire concept of going out for a wedding party -- in your best attire -- somehow looses its charm if you end up eating mustard leaves [saag in India]. I can be wrong too.

I reckon the charm of any party lies in the assorted smiles of its gathering. The air has to be chirpy and the food divine. While the Jain affair was elaborate with many generous layers of ghee to it, I found it pretty bland. As most vegetables tend to be, however deep you try and fry them. The Pathan ball on the other hand was vivacious. Melliferous music wafted over lamb skewers.

In my mind I was attempting to make a comparison with the last party I went to. And I distilled my thoughts thus: In India two kinds of people exist. Those who eat lentils and are content with the vittle and those who savour lamb and just love it. While I would mostly identify with the latter, I think taste is always a relative term. Iffy, if you may call it.

The humorist Fran Lebowitz once averred, ‘Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat’. Jim Davis, the cartoonist, differs. Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie, he argues. I think the Spanish got it right: The belly rules the mind. So eat what you please.

Bon apetit.