Of all the stereotypes about India that are thoroughly unwarranted and bizarre, and of course offensive, there is that one typicality that is far too true, and quite sensible. Food. Indian food is one of the most wonderful phenomenon in the world that has tremendous appeal, and is quite honestly the one thing India collectively should be proud of.
But if we had to trace the journey of food, how would we do that? How would we encapsulate seven glorious decades of culinary delights? Well we try our hands at it. Check out below!
The new state of India was grappling through a lot of newness, but that one comforting presence was of the plethora of variety that exuded from every corner of the nation. Such was in the world of cuisines too. With so many states, with the people holding onto the unique unification of souls, there was one thing was our own -and that was the food. The entire map of India could be traced according to palette. You could tell Kashmir from Gujarat from Bengal to Karnataka, just by the exquisite difference in the food. And that was as truly Indian as it got.
What was always most cardinal to every Indian except for mother earth? It was the mother! If there had to be a genre of food most sincere and pure, it would be the good old Ma Ka Khaana ; with an overwhelming sense of belonging ringing fresh in every citizen’s heart every household celebrated their ability to have a good home cooked meal at the end of a gruelling day!
Our first foray into the world of decadent foreign goods was the local confectioneries that sprouted up in our towns and cities. With crunchy patties, creamy pineapple pastries, and lip-smacking delicious cream rolls -these goodies were what came to our homes on special occasions and were the ultimate leisure food. It was so Indian but at the same time spoke of continental tastes, and children adult alike loved it!
Bollywood and Bombay -these two things largely affected the landscape of life in India in the 70s. This decade marked the romanticisation of the city that never sleeps, the city of dreams, the city of Bombay. And what could be more iconic than some beachside chaat while sitting on the shoreline hoping to make it big in this city. This soon saw a place in all of our homes, and suddenly family discussions and aspirations were laid on the table every evening with some samosas and some bhel!
This decade was when the average Indian finally decided to let loose and understand the idea of leisure. The average Indian had their duties and responsibilities but now also enjoyed the fruits of his hardwork. The decade of crazed cricket, the decade of television soaps, and finally the decade of rewards. Indians began to finally throng restaurants with their families in tow, eating some delicious fare, listening to the in-house ghazals and enjoying the time out from worrying about the drudgery of everyday life.
There is a significant reason why Maggi rose to the epic popularity that it did. It was that time when you need fast food, and that meant quick food, a pleasurable snack, and the entire country was being swept up in this crazy rush of Chinjabi cuisine. Chowmein, chilli paneer, Manchurian! It was all a yum melange of good ol’ desi cuisine met with the spices and taste of the ever so popular Chinese fare. It was being catered for birthday parties, eaten at surreptitious dates, cooked as Saturday night meals. It was greasy, and it was SO delicious!
The world was being molecular with their food, and so was India. The world was being dainty about its presentation, so was India. This commenced the decade of fancy food. It was overwhelming, it was expensive, it was pleasing to the eyes, and most importantly it was so totally unheard of. Frothy drinks, bite-sized appetizers, truffles in our curries -this decade was being experimental with their food on a global scale and India was truly an active part to that evolution.
But then India decided to go healthy. She went on diets, she went organic, she had nutritionists, and she came full circle to her eating practices from the wee civilization pre-Independence. Rock salt, buckwheat flour, sweet curd; foods our ancestors relished were being suddenly acquired under the garb of niche and we began enjoying the minimalism in cuisines. Fresh, safe, healthy, and indulgent -the ongoing decade got a bite of “hipster” food when truly we had it under our noses all this while!