You know when you visit some fancy restaurant and see the menu and read something like this:
Fluffed white rice with a side of hand- beaten creamy yellow lentils tempered with fragrant cumin and caramelized onions
This is nothing but dal- chaval, dear folks, just refined to make it sound pricey and special. ( Dal- chaval is plain rice and lentils, equivalent to something like baked beans on toast).
It’s not just expensive restaurants but mid- range restaurants and even small eateries that seem to be playing the same game. They just either Frenchify the name or give it some kind of new twist so we think we’re ordering something exotic. It’s ordinary food parading as haute cuisine.
I’m sure we’ve all been to those fancy restaurants – and fancy parties too- where you order something from the menu that sounds really exotic, but what you get is the same ole stuff what Mum makes at home, only Mum’s stuff is better. Like this description:
Vegan whole-wheat flatbread stuffed with a mashed potato filling flavoured with spices, cooked tenderly over a griddle until crisp, accompanied by an earthen pot of rich, creamy yoghurt and a tangy slice of mango pickle.
What is this lovely food with an exorbitant price-tag? Nothing more than aloo parantha with yoghurt and pickle, what the average Punjabi eats for breakfast on an almost daily basis.
There’s more, much more. Have you ever had a waiter approaching you with a dish from which white smoke curls out? Quite dramatic, ain’t it? That’s nothing else but liquid nitrogen, the latest serving trend in fancy restaurants. I had some golguppas – pani puri to some of you- with swirls of smoke erupting from these bombs. I was urged to pop one into my mouth- smoke n all- and after the initial icy coldness, my mouth exploded with the tangy taste of the jaljeera. it reminded me of Enid Blyton’s “pop biscuits” in her Magic Faraway Tree series. Remember those biscuits, which grew bigger and bigger in your mouth until you almost burst, and then pop! Your mouth was filled with honey. Well, all I can say is, I prefer my golguppas the normal way, thank you very much, and don’t want to get a cold burn.
It’s not just Indian or Asian foods that are given all kinds of fancy terminology or strange ways of “refining” them, it’s also continental food. Have you had something freshly foraged? For heavens’ sake. that lamb or venison that you’re eating has probably come from a supermarket shelf. Nobody has gone hunting for deer or whatever in the nearby forests. The same holds for the expression “freshly picked”, as if there’s a kitchen garden at the back of the restaurant or hotel. These are merely posh-sounding terms to make you part with your precious paisa.
Another of my pet peeves is “hand-cut.” Like the other day, an upmarket restaurant advertised its hand-cut zucchini salad. C’mon, most things are cut by hand! Gimme hand-cut over machine-cut any time! But that in no way warrants the jaw-dropping prices.
I end my piece with something I truly love, but served to me in the most pretentious manner possible: Mango hedgehog. Can only be eaten with a knife and fork, or scooped out with a spoon. Here it is. Care for some?