Recipe Please ! When Panta Bhat Becomes Smoked Rice...
Purely conjecture, but probably when the Cavemen did a good barbecue after their hunt, the word went round echoing in the wilderness about the tastiest morsel and oral recipes were born.
'Recipe Please!'---is a plaintive cry heard across culinary platforms on social media, in family groups, in dinner conversations and even at restaurants. Obliging Chefs tell you the ingredients and hopefully divulge the little tip that made the dish acquire the extra dash to be palate tickling.
Diane Kennedy, a 98 year old British food writer calls food--- not just step by step recipes but socio- economic documents and records of ecological diversity. She thinks recipe writing is deeply undervalued as creative work.She has rightly put her money where her mouth is (or ours for that matter!)considering how food is so central to our existence. Not merely as plain sustenance to give us energy but the centrepiece of our gustatory satiation.
From royalty to the homespun Dadi Ma ke Nuskhe of the unsung housewives, recipe books are treasured.Salma Husain, a Persian scholar and food historian gave us a peek into the Royal Moghul Degchis by translating the original manuscript, Nuskha-e-Shahjahani,kept at the British Museum. The result was a delightful book called 'The Emperor's Table', delicacies for an emperor who was more of a gastronome than a warrior.
Recipe books remain the hot selling item in a publisher's stable despite the You Tube bonanza. An interesting nugget about the famous Agony Aunt of food-columns , Betty Crocker, is that she was a fictive character created by an American flour company as an advertising gimmick. Her viral popularity made her the second most popular woman to Eleanor Roosevelt. Such is the magnetic pull of food. Celebrity Chefs shine online and we even have robotic cooks producing a meal!
Food can be a political tool. A teaser for statistics -beasts to answer whether Kamala Harris's food video in Mindy Kaling's kitchen garnered her a sizable chunk of women voters in her ascent to the VP's chair? And if Hillary Clinton's dissing comment in the nineties on stay-at-home Moms baking cookies dented her image by casting her as a latter day Lady Macbeth with naked ambition. Though our home-grown Bihari Nari, Rabri Devi, with her 'down-to-chulah' image and a delectable name to boot, rose to sit on the CM's chair with great ease.
The food scene has witnessed some fisticuffs over GI tags given to certain dishes owing to regional pride.Rosogolla led to 'mukkabaazi, between Orissa and Kolkata each claiming the provenance of the sweet.It didn't leave a sweet taste in the mouth.Finally both states have a GI tag for their variants to end the tug -of -war in a draw. No Indian foodie will believe that the ever popular street snack Samosa has an Iranian origin, as Sambosa. No threat of nuking our Samosa however!
Only fine dining from powerful nations used to make the cut at the high table. It was unthinkable to have Nouvelle Cuisine rubbing shoulders with 'Panta Bhat',a rice gruel and a poor man's breakfast dish. Many variants of this soaked rice dish exist in India. Recently presented by a Bangla Deshi contestant in the Master Chef contest with panache as Smoked Rice, it is gaining a pedigreed status.
Food snobbery lies in tatters. Panta Bhat is considered a Superfood now ,which it always was, because of its pro-biotic nature. The first woman Chef to get a Michelin star is a young Indian Chef in Bangkok.Garima Arora who serves simple Indian food run in an informal canteen style restaurant space called, Gaa. She has put Indian food on the global food-map along with a few innovative Chefs of Indian origin.
Food glorious food---for those with means is always on the front burner.Sadly, the spectre of malnutrition does keep hovering over the stoves of a sizable global population though.
Now that is food for thought! Any recipes for a more egalitarian food scene?
Cover Photo: When good old Panta Bhatt becomes Smoked Rice on an international culinary show.