Wednesday, January 25, 2012

About food and friendship

Food has various emotional as well as psychological connections with every one of us. Whenever we have a particular dish or visit a certain restaurant, there’s always some property of the delicacy that we feast on, that helps us remember something. It may be anything at all, a person, place or even an event. We always tell that no matter where we have our food, the best dish will always come from our mothers’ hands, and so it is.  Some foods help us recuperate, helps to find balance during surging times. Foods often bear goods news, and seldom bad. Alexander the Great wanted to uproot every mango tree when he was crossing the fertile plains of the Indus and have them planted in his private orchard in Babylon. It reminded him of victory; sweet, fleshy and rewarding, he said. Apart from what would have been an ecological disaster, the mango would perhaps never have reached the ripeness they possessed in India of course. I wonder how many poor gardeners would have been executed in the pursuit of sweet mangoes. Instead, the rulers of the nearby kingdoms gifted the Macedonian warlord with bucket loads of mangoes. It was a token of friendship as well as a ploy to slow down those wind-like Persian horses in battle if necessary. The latter was just a funny hypothesis, the former proved effective in enhancing Indo-Greek relations. In fact, whenever a Greek scholar roamed the parts of Northern India, it was about mangoes that often enabled him to strike a blissful conversation with locals.  

Picking up from where those scholars left about two millenniums ago, we still use food as a very interesting topic of conversation in our daily lives. We often quibble at home with our grandparents that spinach is actually still green and ugly not matter how many paneer pieces are put in the crockery to decorate it. Similarly, I was able to convince my younger cousin that Popeye’s green “thing” was actually spinach, and that he still couldn’t punch me any harder after he grudgingly had a bowl of it. I would feint pretty well though. Food conversations often lead to friendship too. How many awkward moments of foolishness have we endured, that have perhaps always been eased out with food. All those unpleasant moments of silence with a new room-mate, shattered with the sound of tiffin being opened, only to mesmerise your sense of smell with an every-filling incense of home-cooked food. Or the time you stayed over at your friend’s place, only to see his or her mother preparing a beautiful breakfast as you were about to leave. Those fun-filled moments in college canteens, coloured with the “bread pakodas” or “rajma chawal.”

Food has numerous properties. It is rich in nutrients, good for your health (well some of them at least) and can blossom and idle mind into writing sentimental essay like this one. Well, we need not elaborate its types and candtell you what a carbohydrate was or the benefits of protein. But its special use as a binding agent in situations irrespective or dissimilar to the very taste of food is a property perhaps best exploited by us. Fun dissolves well with spice, sorrow glues appropriately with sweetness, suspense with heat and hysteria with tang. Our tongues only perceive what we eat, our minds decide how it tastes, and our hearts digest the pleasure it provides.

 So, the next time you have home-made cookies stored up at the back of your cupboard, don’t hesitate in distribution. It will of course mean that you may lose a few calories, but will certainly ensure that you gain many more friends.