Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Cuisine Speaks of Its Culture

 It is very well said, it’s the cuisine that very well represents the culture of a country. Most of us, know west more because of Mc Donalds & Pepsi cola than any other attribute of the western culture. Every country has a specific way of preparing food. Rather, every region has a specific way of cooking. Even in India, Northern India has a totally way of cooking when compared to Western part.

The way of eating food is considered to have a great impact on the way we behave in our life. Indians for example, have a thali system while westerners have buffet and have a course meal contrary to Indians, who would eat by mixing food items together. A westerner would have the food in course and will have the sweets as the last course. An Indian would prefer having a part of sweet amalgamated with the staple food. We would need some chutney, salad and pickle along with food and would love mixing them together. This could be a subtle indication of why, we have achieved the heights of customization.

Let’s consider Indian style as being circular where in anything can be taken any time and in a rotation policy, unlike the western way, which is linear, wherein, every food item has a defined timing to enter the plate. The starter is the beginning and sweet the end. We see a reflection of this in the way we eat. Indians eat chapatis and tear the pieces in a circular way, contrary to western way where the knife and fork move in liner direction to cut.

It is considered that the kitchen is one place, which very well represents the culture of a family. The way we treat our food is the way, we treat our body. Probably, for the same reason, in ancient times, the kitchen was given more relevance than the temple. It was up to the extent, that, the kitchen would have a temple inculcated in it. The relevance of kitchen, in Asian culture, can be adjudged by the customs.

It’s the women, who were considered Lakshmi, the magnet of Devas, were allowed to enter the Kitchen and were given the responsibility of kitchen. It was a custom, to enter the kitchen only after having a bath, people were not allowed to enter kitchen wearing footwear, another allusion to the kitchen being a sacred place in homes. All these subtle hints passed the children a message that food is something much bigger than a means to pander the hungry stomach.

Cooking was considered an art. Every mother has a peculiar magic, which she adds to the food she cooks.  A cook would seldom taste the food prepared by her. Cooking was an activity, which would deploy all the senses of the human body, except taste, the sense, which it is going to delight. Such is the thrill of cooking. The cook would never measure the quantity of the ingredients;  she had to rely on her senses and experience. There were no written recipes; the knowledge was transferred from generation to generations.

Now we have completely changed our kitchen under the aegis of ‘globalization’. The kitchen is no more the citadel of positive energy, but has become a supporting machinery in most of our households. We need automated kitchen, ready to cook food; we need quick food, everything has lost the taste of the mother’s hand and just the essence of plastic and ceramic added to the taste of food.

We have gone to such a low level, that we have outsourced our kitchen. It’s no more a family member cooking, but some paid outsider cooking for us. Now we have to eat what someone else cooks. We have to intake the thoughts that the outsider has imbibed in the food. We have rather lost the right to say, ‘our food’. This has been one of the most cruel gifts that globalization has given us. Is this the aftermath of the western outsourcing?