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Time to read: 4 min 28 sec
What comes to your mind when you look at food? Apart from having them, you would probably think about the habits. People from across the world have different food habits. Having meat all the time to having vegetarian food all time. Food habits vary drastically across regions, religions and cultures.
The West prefers to consume their food with the spoon and fork.
South-East Asia prefers to have food with their hands, while the east prefers to have food with the help of chopsticks.
They usually have lots of meat in their diet. There are vegans and vegetarians as well. People in India are prone to more of a mixed diet comprising of vegetarian and non-vegetarians. I am yet to come across vegans in India!
India has a vegetarian majority. Even with the meat-eaters, you will still come across a hardcore person who also eats vegetarian food to a certain extent. The stats seem to vary, with no one giving a precise percentage to the population of vegetarians.
Eating with hands is an Indian thing. I have food with my hands and sometimes with a spoon. There are times when I use both. How? It depends on the food I am having. If it is chapati (Indian flat-bread) then I roll it in the left hand. With the spoon in my right hand, I scoop up the gravy.
Indian food contains lots of spices and oil. As an Indian, I cannot imagine any of my food without spices.
There are varieties of cooking oils: sunflower, sesame oil, mustard oil, rice bran oil, etc. Nowadays, olive oil has also become a part of our cooking. Its inclusion is due to the notable pasta. When you cook pasta, cooking with olive oil makes a world of difference in the taste.
Some foods have a heavenly taste! Deep-fried heavenly taste! Nothing comes close to fried chicken!
Our typical food:
My grocery list initially included sunflower oil, then we switched to rice bran since it is healthy and very light. I could compare it with light olive oil.
Indians cook food from fresh produce. Mom sees to it we stock up vegetables every week. She is particular that we eat enough greens along with meat. So my house diet is very balanced.
We usually combine our food with veg and non-veg. For example, we will have daal, rice and some vegetables. To top it all, we will have fried fish as a non-vegetarian accompaniment. Sometimes, pickles also join us for lunch and dinner.
Ever tried scooping the flesh of a fried fish? I saw one of my friends do that. I learnt from him and do the same with my friend fish. The disadvantage of using a spoon to scoop the flesh is that the bones are not ‘clean’. Ultimately, I have to chew the bones to ‘clean’ them. This I do without the spoon. I know it defeats the purpose entirely so I always do it towards the end of my meal.
Speaking of pickles, India is a treasure trove of pickles. The different regions have their speciality when it comes to preparing them.
The Gujarati community in the country have perhaps the best variety of pickles they can boast. They prepare a special tangy variety of pickle called – Golkeri.
Another non-vegetarian variety is called balchao – a Goan delicacy. Made with prawns, fish or even chicken. The most popular variety is the Prawn Balchao.
Phoebe prepares Prawn Balchao from time to time – she learnt it from my maternal aunt.
Given the choice for pickles, I would say the spicy whole mango pickle is by far the best. The only time I had it was when I travelled to my native Mangalore during my school days. Yes, it was a family trip.
Weekdays usually counts for vegetables and fish in my house. Meat is rarely eaten and it is eaten to break the monotony of the veg food. Sundays and special occasions usually count when we wish to have non-vegetarian food.
When I go to the restaurant, order or have pizza, non-veg is always preferred. Chicken biryani is always chosen over Mutton Biryani. For the uninitiated, Vegetable Biryani does not exist, Pulao or Pulav took its place!
On other occasions or when we wish to take a break from cooking, we would either order food or go to a restaurant.
I love to try out something new and in a different restaurant. There are a few of my favourites when I go with friends or family. Sometimes, the usual restaurant becomes quite generic. You have no choice but to go there because you are left with no choice when it comes to family. Here the choice is on consensus and suggestions may come into play.
I live in the state of Maharashtra and surrounded by Maharashtrian cuisines, snacks and even comfort food – the humble Vada Pav. When in Mumbai, you will come across thousands of hawkers, fast food joints selling this humble food.
Why do I call it humble? Because for me, it may be a snack but for others, it is a means of survival. The manual labourers, migrant labourers, low-income wage earners, the list goes on, depend on it. I am not much of a vada pav fan but I love Punjabi Samosa.
The truth is, vada pav is easy to make and even replicate. Punjabi samosa requires the proper way to cook. For example, if you buy vada pav from any stall or food joint, the taste is more or less the same. Samosa is a different ball game altogether. Two shops may never get the same ingredients right – according to me.
The quest to find the perfect samosa is on and I know a few places which do complete justice to it while others just ‘insult’ it.
Other dishes that comes to my mind is the Kanda Poha. It is a breakfast food mom makes from time to time.
Dad introduced me to Dahi Misal in my school days – it is usually eaten with pav and comes in a spicy and non-spicy variety. It is again a typical breakfast food that can also be eaten for lunch, dinner or snack. You must increase or reduce the quantity – that is the trick!
There is another Maharashtrian dish that is close to my heart called Mirchi Cha Thecha or Chilly Chutney. The core ingredient is chilly and eaten with chapati. I get to eat it on rare occasions whenever my office colleague brings it for lunch.
Food habit varies not only from region and religion-wise but also from house-to-house. Different households have different take on their food habits.