The global meltdown has had certain very unique ramifications. Other than the obvious ones, it is food and how its definition has undergone a total metamorphosis. Gone are the days when it was Chinese or max to max Italian pizzas and pastas which tickled out taste buds on an evening spin around town. Now, the huge sea change of the world stage turning into a global village is so very, very visible in this arena.
Lasagnes and risottos run a mock even with children, sushis and sashimis are the order of the day for even small townies, and the upbeat youth will do no less with starting their day with hummus and pita, and finishing it with Malayan Satays and Ladakhi Thukpas.
World cuisine is absolutely sky high. It is Moroccan food which is the latest entrant to join the list of the must-taste, just like it was the Lebanese or Turkish Falafels, Lavashes, Tahinis, Ganoushes, Labnehs and Muhhamarras which came into this seascape a year or so ago. Can one even get talking about food without saying that we just love the Spinach and Cheese Sambousik or that it is the Fattoush or Borek that we yearn for? Or for that matter, does anyone even talk of sizzlers or momos anymore as the favorite dish on a Friday night out with colleagues? These are totally passé. Their days of the name in the sun are gone now. Move over and let the new brigade of raviolis, bruschettas and cannellonis take over.
And, when it comes to sweets and desserts, food has truly exploded. It is very uncool to say we are game for a black forest or a blueberry pastry. Try the almond panna cottas or at least sample a strawberry cheesecake or a fruit parfait. Even in humble kitchens, mothers are trying out the soufflés, tiramisus and mousses to satiate sweet tooths.
For this, as far as the ingredients go, the old world gelatin is completely regaled backwards, and it is china grass puddings which have come to the fore. Even size-wise, no one has the calorie intake to try out a brownie or a piece of cake anymore. These are frowned upon everywhere. It is bite-sized sweetmeats or packaged-in-the-jar desserts which people crave for. Not only do these help fulfill hunger pangs, but do not stuff our systems with unwanted fats or sugars. Another case in point is the very-much-in-demand red velvet cupcake – does anyone have a full one? Absolutely NO. It is its mini version that is taken away from bakery counters all over the place.
In the kitchens, ladies are trying out zero oil cooking. Even when a teaspoon of oil needs to be drizzled into the wok, it is olive or rice bran oil which rule the roost. When it comes to Chinese, our very own versions of the Manchurians have been taken over entirely. Soya and chilli sauces are no longer required for dishing out a Chinese meal. It is the Chinese five spice powder, schezuan sauce, hoisin sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, and the green garlic sauces which are the must-have ingredients.
The roster of the new age Chinese must eat do not have the sweet and sour vegetable stew or the Hong Kong Vegetables anymore. It is the five treasure vegetables, vegetables in mala sauce, tri-mushrooms in lemon sauce or the saiwoo vegetables which are tried out in trendy kitchens. And, do not forget to learn your mushrooms before heading out for a kitty party, one just has to know the difference between the shitake and the oyster mushroom before you hit out. Knowing your blue cheese from the mozzarella or the brie is just not happening anymore. Also, who tries out a new full meal with cottage cheese……for heaven’s sake, use tofu instead!
The food stage, especially when it comes to tiffins for kids, is now absolutely rife with new ideas. The tricolor sandwiches, pancakes of differing fillings, are a thing of the past. The little ones now carry fanciful, but very healthy, stuff like semolina hearts, crunchy curls, spinach squares, vermicelli pulao, cheese fingers, bread crepes, minty bread bites and their ilk to school.
Why, even sprout peanut tomato rice or garlic bread and cheesy pita wedges or even broccoli mayo wraps would do. But no more green coriander dips with white bread please!
What comes through is that food is not just something to fill your bellies with, was always the case. But now, with frequent travelling all over the globe and a lot of mixing up of cultures from different continents, the real game changers in any situation are that what we eat or even cook is the reflection of what we are.
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