Like a lot of food blogs (and a lot of food writing in general) out there, the very necessity (yes!) of this, of me writing about, dreaming about, pining for a plate of bhata-dalma, began when I packed my bags and left home.
I came to Delhi from Orissa to pursue my Masters in Sociology. For a while I was quite happy here. Quite happy that I didn’t have to live a life with dull, unattractive mounds that my mother spooned onto my plate. That for me was Oriya food. Or so I thought. Who wanted to eat a dull dalma and thin fish curry when there was that fiery red plate of Chicken Butter Masala, that siren dressed in cream and giving you that “come hither” look. Not me! Oh no, I was quite happy here, thank you very much. But soon it all wore off. I had enough of chole bhature. Enough of kadhai paneer.
( And why indeed was kadhi pakoda invented? Why?) I started dreaming about food then. Food from home. Of that smell when pancha phoran hits that kadhai of mustard oil and you know thats all that a huge mound of vegetables needs to transform into something spectacular. So simple and yet so fulfilling. I started getting dreamy-eyed about pakhala and maccha bhaja. Yearning for a sight of chota maccha besara. Of those littlelittle, tiny little, sliver little fish swimming in a mustard base. I wanted someone to airlift me from this land of paneer matar. And paneer butter. And butter something else. I started giving dirty looks to people who said anything against my food. Started crossing swords with absolute strangers on the train.
Aap batao, kya khate ho aap jo bol rahe ho Orissa mein khana nahi milta?
Arre itti acchi sabzi khate hain hum. Winter mein mix-veg le lo. Gajar dalten hain. Matar dalte hain. Paneer dalte hain…
Kadhi pakore kya sahi lagta hain! Special hai hamara!
Isko khana bol rahe ho aap? Gajar. Matar. Paneer. Bas. Huh. Pata hai Orissa mein kya milta hai? Kya khate hain hum?
They obviously didn’t share their food with me.
Have I turned into a food fascist? Probably not. But my love affair with North Indian khana is definitely over. I do acknowledge it, like old lovers eventually do, when they encounter each other. I will occasionally even go out and allow myself to be charmed by melt in the mouth kakori, be willing to order in a “quarter butter chicken”. But I eventually rationalize the whole episode by saying to myself “Its just that time of the month”.
So, yes, I will mostly be blogging about my food. Yes, it will be about Oriya food, but it will also be about the food that I have encountered elsewhere. About other regional dishes that I have come to love. And about some meal-in-a-bowl dinners that I mostly eat.
Even though I have been tempted to take tangents into the sociology of food, to talk about the whys and hows of different aspects while writing this blog, I have tried (really hard!) to keep it accessible to everyone. I don’t wish to take you away from your plate of butter-chicken. I am sure you have happy memories of that. But do step out and try something that’s not just curry. Discover the searing heat of a bowl of Naga style Raja-Mirchi Chicken. If there ever was a gastronomic version of S&M (as someone put it), I am sure this would be it.
Reason enough to step out?