The Good Indian Thali

Today is Christmas, and I relate it to fun, food and family. My happiest memories of Christmas are the carol singing in school, the delectable Christmas cake sent by our neighbours and the Santa story though we were not given to writing any letters or hanging any stockings. So, he never gifted me anything and I too never kept a cookie for him. Anyway a Merry Christmas to everyone. May everyone around have an abundance of fun, food and a loving family.
We Indians are prone to enjoying our food with abandon and why not? After all no other country can brag about the variety in its cuisine as much as our country. So, we make the world eat South Indian food, North Indian food, the Mughlai cuisine, a very Punjabi Tikka Masala etc. etc., while the countries around the world have only Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese and other such cuisines named after the country of origin. And the best part is that we have our own version of these very foreign cuisines. So, we have paneer laced pizza, Mc Aloo tikki burger, our Indian Chinese is to die for and we also cook a very Jain version of any cuisine to suit our palette, preference, period of abstinence ( Saavan & Navratri ).
So, what is authentic Indian food? I remember one incidence that took place a long time ago. Once a couple from our native village had come to visit us. The lady was an active worker of a prominent political party and visiting the Parliament was very much on her itinerary. So, off we went with the couple to zip, and zoom through the roads of Delhi to show the couple the city they wanted to see. At one of the places, may be India Gate, I don’t remember exactly where, we came across a group of tourists. We got talking and they enquired us where they could get authentic Indian food? We told them that all the food they got was Indian but they wanted the real taste of India and no I’m not advertising ‘Amul’.
My brother as is his nature very sweetly told them that they can taste true Indian food in any Indian house and they were welcome to have lunch with us. And they readily agreed to pay us a visit the next day. So, we were to host a couple from Israel and an Australian and serve them an Indian Thali. Now, serving food was not a problem, the issue was what constituted a true Indian Thali? Now, the Cosmopolitan constitution of our family made us wonder whether to serve a Rajasthani Thali with daal-baati, or a Punjabi Thali of saag-roti, paneer, or a traditional Maharashtrian Thali and then we also wondered about some other combinations to serve. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that there was no one single version which could claim to be truly Indian and yet each of them could pass as authentic. We worked through various menus and made our own Indian Thali on the basis of what is common to all the regional thalis.
So, a Thali constituting of a pickle, any papad, a bit of freshly cut veggies for salad, a dry sabji and a curry, could be daal or a gravy, rice, roti, curd and a sweet is the ubiquitous Indian Thali. Accordingly, we got the lunch ready and the tourists turned up for lunch at the dotted hour. They were amazed to see the variety of food being cooked in Indian homes, that too fresh every time and enjoyed it thoroughly. But the best part was yet the come.
Now, we also realized that an Indian food was incomplete without the ‘Mukhwas’ which is offered at the end of the meals. We offered them a variety of choorans. The Israelis readily took it and gulped it down while the Australian was wise enough to ask what to do with it, whether to chew it or suck on it. We told him to savour it slowly as it would unravel its riots of tastes mixing with the saliva. The Israelis were taken aback and wanted some more to try. They not only enjoyed it but took some with them to carry back home.
One thing I realized through this experience is that every authentic cuisine can become an equally authentic variation of the original without much fuss. So cheers to the authentic and the variants for this is what the festivals are for, to  bond and what better than food to bond over?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Aparna Nagda says:

    I’m hungry… I guess that was Food For Thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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