We know that India has four estates- the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the media. Without these, any country would not be complete. So in a way, we can say that an ‘estate’ here means something essential. I call dibs on calling ‘comfort food’ as the fifth estate because it provides comfort to people. Who does not want to live in comfort? There are many moments that we face, when we yearn for something that makes us feel better. What better way to deal with all the negativities than a bowl of say our favorite food?
So the discussion about food and writing about food came up in class, thanks to Nilanjana Roy. She, in this post talks extensively about food, packing it with interesting tidbits. How else would I have bothered to check out what Nimat-nama was? So that led us to discussing about our votes (context- read that post) for a national dish. No, I refuse to be a part of the Dosa bandwagon, because my dosa is mine. I would not fancy the liberal butchering of the soulful item with schezuan flavours. I would rather go and vote for Poori and Aloo masala. I mean, come on! They are Pan-Indian. Each state has its own version of this Sunday staple in most families. They don’t seem to hurt the wheat sympathisers from the north of the Vindhyas, it’s perfect!
So while we were discussing about our own choice of a comfort food, my thoughts never went past the first option- Paruppu Saadham and Potato Fry. To say the name in the language of High-end top notch-ish snootiness,
Steamed rice from the plains of Tanjore mixed in a generous serving of golden, cooked lentils with copious amounts of clarified butter, accompanied by a rich and sinful serving of potatoes, roast-fried to the optimum with a dash of exotic Indian spices.
The blatant truth that the term ‘exotic Indian spices’ was nothing but our own mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chilli and turmeric powders, will only be known to us, the insiders. Moving on.
So that being said and my mind being the irritating monkey it is, reminisced about each time I had the heavenly meal. This meal means a lot to me, on a personal level. It actually represents something more than food to me. It reminds me of the days when my mom used to feed me with this. I was a child who did not like anything to do with curd or buttermilk. I abhorred the spicy rasam too, since I was apprehensive about the surprise it might give me down my throat. So this was the only other child-friendly alternative my parents had, to get me to eat.
So this combination resembles a warm hug in a bowl to me. Whenever I am sad, happy, ecstatic, angry, disappointed or 12345876235 other feelings, I would love to comfort myself with this. Although, these days, the list of accompaniments has become longer. For instance, there was this one time, recently, when I also added a cup of mango puree (made in Jugaad style) along with my staple supply and it was heavenly. The feel of warm rice and dal, with the essence of ghee in it well complemented by the spicy and crunchy potato fry is not something to be missed or to be taken lightly. If only all meals are like that! Sigh!
That brings me back to the point where I was pondering about the contenders for the honour of national food. I think our own Parotta (or Paratha, whatever!) is also equally, if not more, qualified to be chosen. Parotta has its own variety in every state. It can metamorphosise from the humble Kerala Parotta to Enna Brotta (Vanakkam Tamizhagam) to Aloo paratha and a bunch of other parathas with creative stuffings.
Coming to think of it, Parotta offends the wheat and the rice sympathisers equally since it neglects both and is made of refined flour. It can be paired with vegetarian, non-vegetarian and anti-national gravies with ease and can be equally tasty and fulfilling. The biryanis can be damned and the dosas dare not be touched.