Food Nostalgia

This is a week of rants. Faisal Shahzad episode brought out the worst in us as this  week I read rants about being a Pakistani, not being a Pakistani, on ranting bloggers, on Islam, shariah, politicians (all with exception of that sacred cow i.e., the Pakistani military). In the spirit of things, I have decided to add a rant of my own. However, I will steer clear of politics and religion. Mine is cultural rather to be more specific, gastronomical.

Couple of weeks ago I was sitting with a few family friends over dinner and the topic naturally was food and taste. My friend’s wife said that with the advent of Shan and National masalas for biryani, haandi etc. making food has become much easier. You get the same great taste with less effort and time. I disagreed.

I appreciate that making food is hard work and welcome the convenience that ready masalas have afforded to home makers. However, at the same time I believe we have lost a couple of things: the personal touch and the appetizing aroma of a real “home-cooked” meal.

Is it me or has anyone else felt that the masala packet suppers do not have the same aroma as the individually picked spices added into the food? Friday used to be Biryani day at our home and I distinctly remember walking into the house and the delicious aroma of biryani hitting the nose as soon as the front door was opened. When pulao used to be on “dum” the smells would wet your appetite and get the juices flowing even if you were having a siesta. Though the masala packet prepared food gives off aromas but it does not carry the same effect.

Does anyone remember the “sil batta” chatni and the aroma it had? I can swear that chatni prepared using exactly the same ingredients but in a blender will never give aroma like the one made on ‘sil batta’.

I belong to Karachi and they call it mini-Pakistan (they could also call it mini-subcontinent) because there are people from all parts of the country (subcontinent)living there. When I was growing up, different members of the extended family/neighbourhood had a different speciality home meal depending where they come from. The hyderabadis, the dilliwalas, the biharis, the bombaywalas, punjabis (unfortunately sindhis used to have the blandest meals and FYI, sindhi biryani is an oxymoron…sindhis don’t have anything close to biryani ). One aunt use be good at chicken karhai, one  excelled at yakhni pulao, the other might made excellent fish etc with their little innovations and techniques that were transferred mother to daughter, generation after generation. We actually used to look forward to different tastes at different houses.

Now we had this plethora of shan masalas and tv cooking programs and everywhere you eat, its the same taste: no variety, no personal touch unless someone screwed up in following the advice to the letter.

I am not complaining. I have eaten well. Its just that my kids and future generations would never get the chance to taste what you call “authentic” foods unless they go to a touristic place and eat the tourism body promoted “authentic local cuisine” 🙂


On a related note, when I was growing up, when ever tea was boiled in the house, the whole house would know (we lived in a two story house with the extended family) because of its aroma. Now you don’t even know that tea is being made even if you are in the kitchen unless you are directly facing over the kettle.


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