Childhood Nostalgia and Food

By Deepak Ananth

Food! Nothing brings back the memories of good old days as vividly as a plate of hot piping portion of a dish that you grew up on.

Remember the days when the entire family would gather around the table and eat mom’s creations together, the chatter, and the tingling taste buds after eating simple yet deceptively complex flavors, the love that is served along with the day’s menu.

As you grow up, the mind yearns for the same taste. We roam the world tasting one plate of food after another, one cuisine after another but still return home to the familiar taste that often forms the premise of our very personalities.

Vazhaithandu Thoran/ Banana Stem Stir Fry. Source: http://palakkadcooking.blogspot.in/

Farm to Table

I grew up in a south Indian family that prides itself in feeding its members and guests till they are more than stuffed. From the Palakkad region of Kerala, our food is predominantly vegetarian and has ingredients that are often not considered as food in other parts of the country. In some cases, multiple ingredients (and delicacies) came from the same natural source.

Take the banana plant for instance; my grandmother and mother would make curries from the raw plantain, use the flower to make a side dish, the stem to serve up a scrumptious and healthy “kootu” and the fruit to make sweet delicacies that are worth craving for!

Another delicacy in our home was the small jackfruit or the “idichakkai”. It is an acquired taste but one that our family swears by. Or consider lotus roots, which used to be dried and fried to a crispy brown and eaten along with rice. There are various other such dehydrated fruits that I can’t even hope to find the English names for! Most of these dishes took time and effort to prepare, and therein lies the problem today.

In our day and age, where the 10 minute meal is a luxury, where tastes are made-to-order through emulsified liquids and reagents, we have lost the freshness and tastiness of the organically grown produce, often in our very own backyard!

The writer grew up in Kerala’s Palakkad region and enjoyed food cooked by his mother and grand mother. Most of the ingredients were grown organically and cooked with a lot of effort..and love! Image source: www.mouthshut.com

It is therefore very heartening to see that more and more cuisines are now going back to the ‘organic’ culture. In fact, if a restaurant uses ‘organic’ ingredients, that becomes the biggest USP of the eatery. The concept of farm-to-table is catching up again, although it’s ironical that ‘farm-to-table’ used to be India’s very culture. It used to be the norm, not an exception. The ‘effort’ in cooking is what makes it complete. Putting ‘heart and soul’ into the food is what makes it good.

The hope is that when a child beseeches to her mother and says, “mummy bhookh lagi hai,”, the mother does not reply, “beta 2 minutes” and that will be the triumph of taste over convenience!

About Deepak Ananth

Over the past decade and half, Deepak has taken himself to the various nooks and crannies of India through road travel, interacting with the people, eating the local cuisine, creating memories through pictures and just plain roaming the country side. His Enfield, Theia and his car, Lucifer, vie equally for his attention. His ideal holiday would involve rains, nature, long winding roads, mouthwatering food and absolute strangers to share a drink and story with!

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