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Friday, April 13, 2012

Prefer Pakistani to Indian Food?

http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/04/prefer-pakistani-to-indian-food.html

My Indian friend Ram Narayan writes,

" THE ATLANTIC MAGAZINE of May 2012 has an article titled, "Six Rules for Dining Out" by Tyler Cowen, Economics professor at George Mason University, which carries the following totally biased and erroneous view titled, "Prefer Pakistani to Indian (Food)."

Here is my pluralistic perspective - I have a deep affinity for Idli Sambar- Uddin Vada. Even though I enjoy Steak and a whole lot of other foods like Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Korean, German, American and Desi foods, the Idli Sambar- Uddin Vada made by people from Bangalore is distinct and the aroma of it drives me crazy. I will fall for it any time.

IDLI- SAMBAR by a Bangalorean is certainly not any different or better than the one made by a Chennailian, Mumbaiker, Hyderabadich or Trivandarumull, but my taste bud is conditioned to Bangalore food, it is home to me when I eat that food.

I am sure you can relate with me on this, when I was in High School, my mother packed the food in the Tiffin carrier - and my friends jumped on the food, they liked it so much. So, I thought there is no comparison to my Mother's food, she knew it like no one else. Then as I started eating at my friends homes, darn it, their mothers also cooked great food.

Finally, I worked at Food Craft Institute in Bangalore (1974-77) where we trained Chefs, Receptionist, Bakers, Canners and Housekeepers for the burgeoning five star hospitality industries.  There we were served delicious lunches – 250 different food items per year from Philippines to South America, from America to Japan and every major cuisine that you can imagine.

I must give credit to Yasmeen, my wife. She does the fish, kacche gosht ki Biryani, baigan ka bhurta, Chicken Korma… yes, I crave for her food. I found my food-home in her food. She is amazing, but very calorie and cholesterol conscious,  you can see me from two years ago, I have lost 20+ pounds. Thanks to her, I can climb the office stairs with ease without panting. Indeed, when I am on phone with her, I go up and down and down and up, she has got me trained. 

On our wedding Anniversary she took me to an Indian Restaurant in Louisville, man, the Chef was from Bangalore, and the Idli Sambar was perfect. Yasmeen was watching me devour the Idli Sambar.

So my palette was conditioned to be pluralistic –i.e.,  respecting every which food and accepting the uniqueness of each one of the food.  Thank God, I have enjoyed just about every food out there. God has been good to me, magar, phir bhi dil hai Hindustani,  the Idli-Vada beats it all. Thanks to my friends Lata and Sante, who fixed the Idli-Sambar and without any embarrassment, I ate 6 Idlis.

Have you ever gone with a friend and ordered the steak? You may have the best medium rare while the other had well done – you said to yourselves Ayyo,  how do they eat that! Without thinking what the person would say about your bloody steak.

This Sunday, my friend Vatsa has invited me to a special TV Chef Show from Bangalore called Bombat Bhojana and I am looking forward to it.

Each palette longs for certain food, and believe you me, no food is superior or inferior. When my Pakistani friend and I go for lunch, it is a push and pull. I do enjoy the Pakistani food, which is not that different than Indian food, but it has lesser appeal to my buds, as the Indian version of the same food has lesser appeal to him. So, we take turns. Neither food can be classified as good or bad, it is what your conditioning is that makes you enjoy the food.  Who would have thought we would enjoy hot dogs in India, but we do now, especially the ones made in Chicago and New York Street corners. Oon oon ooonh!

Pluralism in Cuisine
Mike Ghouse

Prefer Pakistani to Indian.

On average, Pakistani food in the United States is better than Indian food in the United States, and yet a lot of the core dishes do not greatly differ. Northwestern-Indian cuisine is predominant in the U.S., so you find substantial overlap on most Indian and Pakistani menus.

So why does the Pakistani food turn out better? I think it has to do with cultural associations. When Americans hear Pakistan, many of them think of bin Laden, drone attacks, terrorism, Daniel Pearl, and the sale of nuclear secrets. When Americans hear India, they likely think of Gandhi, or brightly colored Bollywood movies with lots of happy dancing. Whether or not these portraits are fair or representative doesn’t matter. Common images of Pakistan nudge away uncommitted customers. Many Pakistani restaurants also serve no alcohol, limiting their American audience and making them turn more to Pakistani customers. That’s another plus.

So you should go more to Pakistani restaurants than to Indian restaurants. Often, as you search out a good meal, the quality of the customers matters more than the quality of the chef. I doubt that Indian chefs are less talented than their Pakistani counterparts, but they are typically more constrained in what they can produce. The blandness of Indian restaurants, like that of Thai restaurants, is a direct result of their ability to market the food to a mass audience.

These are just a few rules, and of course they aren’t comprehensive, but they illustrate a way of thinking. Food is a product of supply and demand. Whenever you’re searching for restaurants, try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed. That’s the precept underlying all these rules. Follow it, and I guarantee you’ll find better food and better value when you eat out.
The full essay can be read at
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/six-rules-for-dining-out/8929/2/

The essay is adapted from his book An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies, out this month.

Mike

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post,and several other periodicals. www.TheGhousediary.com is Mike's daily blog.

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