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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food culture in my zone

The vegetable seller at the end of my street will sell only the regular vegetables. They don’t sell exotic vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, purple cabbage etc. These are expensive vegetables which an ordinary vegetable seller is unwilling to risk (or maybe because they don’t have the knowledge about its quality and freshness. Even the ones who come to sell them from door-to-door service will not bring these veggies.

 So, if I wish to make something exotic then I have to visit a special supermarket or a particular stall that specializes in these vegetables. I am happy with these farmer’s markets that is held regularly in different suburbs of Mumbai and these are the places where I am assured of fresh and organic supply of my food stuff. These veggies are useful for preparing stir fries or salads, which are not only healthy but also can be prepared quickly.

Recently I attended a buffet party where there was live cooking, food hot from pan to the plate. Such cooking is the inspiration which makes us believe how easy it is to cook. I am always surprised by the people who grumble about the inconvenience when they have to cook and it takes them hours to prepare a meal, even though they have helpers for chopping and cleaning..

 Have simple food nah!

Having an elaborate meal can be done on special days like festivals or family together unions but on regular days a simple meal is quite reasonable.

Most of the families in India have just dhal, rice, curd, chappati, one cooked vegetable/meat dish and salad on regular basis.

 How long does one take to cook such a simple meal?

During my travels I have noticed that even in the European and American families, cold cuts or fast food are quite popular and elaborate meals are reserved for special days.

 During my stay in Tenerife, I attended the Pinolere craft fair at Orotava.There were many stalls which exhibited the local food, fresh fruits/vegetables grown locally and different kinds of cheese, wine and sweets that were famous in that region.

Europeans have lots of traditional dishes that can be found only in that region. The food and taste varies from region to region and may not be available just 100 kms away. Europeans prefer cold cuts and salads. They eat more cheese, more yoghurt, and on an average drink more wine and hard drinks than Americans.

In Spain, natives have laid back attitude. It’s more about savoring the food, enjoyment, drinking and having long chats. They are more relaxed as compared to Americans. In America there is fast food culture and sticking things in the microwave. But for both, American and northern European, a ‘full meal’ would be a main course flanked by vegetables/meat and perhaps followed by dessert.

For the Italian, on the other hand, a ‘full meal would be a pasta dish followed by main course (usually meat or fish) accompanied by vegetables or potatoes, then salad and finally dessert and/or fruit.

In India, people have developed the taste for all kinds of food. Indians like experimenting with the food and are quite creative in adjusting the taste to their palate. They will add ginger to the Chinese dishes, hot green chilies to bland Spanish dishes and will mix all kinds of sauces into a chicken burger.

To quench this hunger, they bring back sauces and soup-packets from the countries they visit, some of them reach beyond their expiry date before they can be consumed.

 Is this food healthy?

 Is it not better to eat locally grown food more than to eat the packed food imported from foreign land?

As the result of this mix-up the authenticity of the regional food is disappearing. In no time at all, people might forget the traditional dishes and will opt for quick and fast food.

On December 10 the global network of Slow Food and Terra Madre comes together to celebrate Terra Madre Day and promote local food.

Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.

 Terra Madre is a network of food communities, each committed to producing quality food in a responsible, sustainable way. Terra Madre focuses on the relationships between food communities, cooks, universities and scientists.

I am quite excited to be the part of the Mumbai Food Bloggers and we have planned a potluck party on Terra Madre day where, each one of us will be preparing the unusual regional food. There will be discussions and sharing of the food culture.

Hmmmn ..looking forward to this space!

Coming back to fast food with fresh vegetables, here is the rice plate made in jiffy

This is the rice dish with fresh peas, mushrooms and Broccoli and just takes not more than five minutes to prepare if you have boiled rice ready in your fridge.

If you chance about visiting these restaurant kitchens you will see that all the vegetables, sauces and ingredients are chopped and neatly arranged around the cooking area. We can do the same into our kitchens too, isn't it?

With little oil (if you are diet conscious) just fry garlic and chilies in a pan. The trick in fast cooking is the fire..on high flame cooking, the juice traps inside the veggies, making it crunchy and tasty, whereas on low flame, the juice escapes  from the veggies and coats all the other ingredients in the whole dish leaving the veggies soft and limp..

Boiled rice and vegetables are added and continues stirring is required.

Rest of the ingredients like salt, spices and sauces can be added according to one's taste.

Tossing is fun, you lift the pan and shake and toss the rice up in the air (careful..not up to ceiling..beware!).......

Another dish of vegetables can be prepared separately to go with the rice place.

This kind of cooking is suitable for small portions and a very good option for the single people who compalin 'What to cook for just one person?"

So now you know!!!

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