I have always been fascinated with the food that ‘was’. It has always held my intrigue. How my grandmother and her previous generations cooked or ate . What recipes did they follow ? And how they ate ? Till I was growing up, the food that we ate at home was how they had cooked and ate except with the onset of fast food rush in India in the 90’s and with all the junk food we would be allowed an outing or two. But mostly it was home cooked Indian food at our dining tables. My mother and aunt would dish up some bakes and grills at parties but that was about it. From our travels our palette got used to other cuisines and so we became open to more flavours .So I can safely say that I did savour the food that ‘was’…not the kind the emperors served at their feasts (those I have read only in the beautiful cookbooks I possess ) but traditionally what was eaten at my grandmother’s home. At my grandmothers table the diet was balanced , the desert was pure and the portions were perfect.
The food scene too changed as India had started to evolve after it gained independence. Restaurants started serving ‘continental ‘food as they called it in India . I hadn’t heard of this term in any menus when I traveled abroad . It was essentially European food . A typical example is a restaurant called Niro's in Jaipur . It started serving continental food in 1949 such as Cutlets and Chicken ala Kiev. Similarly,‘Club food’ came to be known too , which is served in most clubs in India , thanks to the legacy of the British Raj, another way of stating continental food. We would enjoy this food immensely as it was a departure from the food at our tables at home.
And as i have mentioned earlier, came ‘ Fast Food’, the food was definitely prepared 'fast' but very poor in nutrients, Someone in the United States decided that this was the way food was to be cooked and eaten, really fast with nil awareness and mindfulness . As an afterthought , I wish someone had name it with a tagline ‘ Fast Food – Just not real ‘and since everyone was riding this wave, we too got on the boat. Little did we realize , and thankfully we did ,that we would have to get off this boat sooner than later otherwise we would end up visiting more hospitals than we would like to.
In the past decade , there was a wave of molecular gastronomy taking over the world . Food became a show and theatrics was the key. Science and art came together and food had taken a turn towards testing all your senses. Now what is on your table may not necessarily taste the way it should or the way you had perceived it would. Another example of this is the Beyond Burger . It makes no difference if you aren’t a meat eater anymore ..you can just pretend that you are.
But we still do secretly enjoy the old way of cooking , even if it has become tedious in some ways due to our fast paced lives. We appreciate it when our hosts have set tables like our mothers would. As we simply don’t have the time or patience. Molecular gastronomy may not be able to enter our home kitchens due to lack of skill , time and patience.
I cannot seem to wonder how long will it hold our intrigue? I have savoured one of the worlds best molecular foods in Bangkok but what would it take for me to go and savour this again?
The answer lies in our roots and I may not go back to it again and again.
So what is the future of food?
The next decade will be very interesting in the food and beverage world. It will unlock many doors to clean and healthy eating. The circle may be getting complete ..more vegetable gardens will bloom, more kitchen fires will burn rather than food travelling to your doorstep on two wheels, there will be lot more awareness of variety of foods, natural foods will get more prominence and there will be a departure from processed foods and beverages coming in from factories or what I call plastic foods.
So wherever in the world you may be, it will be a new age and dawn for your cuisine to bloom. It may not be the technique of cooking that may take center stage but rather the ingredients that will be in focus. It will be the farmer who will be the new entrepreneur and foods will be naturally grown not produced in factories. Rediscover your cuisine , your grandmothers ways, your mothers’ tempering and what’s growing in your fields . Let it evolve in your home kitchens resetting the ingredients designed and built around you and your families health.
Food will definitely evolve in the next decade faster than it did in the last one , the question is would you prefer to be a part of it’s evolution this time or rather just let it come to your doorstep as it has been appearing …unannounced ?
Wishing you all a healthy and vibrant new year.