The Tapestry of Taste – why your curry is not as good as your grandmothers.
We all have powerful memories of being cooked for. There is a flavour of a childhood curry or a dish that lingers at the back of our head but has not yet been replicated on the tip of our tongue. Even family recipes that have been handed down like heirlooms are not able to replicate that particular taste of a fish curry whose flavour along with the aroma seems to be fast fading in some bygone wood fire kitchen. If only our charred earthenware which have now been replaced with Teflon coated utensils could tell the true story of authentic cuisines. What is most tragic is that our children will never know the flavours we have known; their taste buds have been forever altered.
Aunty Julie never really tells you what she puts in her fish curry?
We blame the loss of traditional food flavours to inaccurate or altered recipes and while that may possibly be true what is also true is that traditional farming and cooking techniques along the demand for certain foods have given way to strains of produce whose goal is not the production of the best quality ingredients and food but one that rings the cash register loudest.
Ever wondered how come your supermarket has so much honey on its shelves?
The demand for honey keeps soaring while ironically bees are dying in record numbers thanks to the indiscriminate use of insecticides. Yet the production of honey is on the rise and surprisingly met with by the use of hidden additives and other shady tactics. Read the label carefully and what you don’t understand research.
Cooking shows turned the humble garlic into a multi-billion-dollar crop giving rise to garlic that is bigger in size and easier to clean but one which lacks flavour if not messes up your body. Today, growing sugar is like printing money for it has infiltrated all forms of food. From chocolate to avocados, beautiful food can come with an ugly back story.
So, what really is in my bag of chips?
The food you love comes with a price and not merely one that burns a hole in your pocket but one that could be destroying your heart. Today, processed food is dominated by flavour intensive items like salt, fat and sugar all of which kicks off the dopamine network in our brains and sets off the cravings. Now you know why it’s so hard to set down a bag of chips; it has the deadly three combo, salt, fat and sugar (from the potatoes). But that’s not all! India alone consumes 5 billion noodle cakes annually. All of this makes us walking health hazards. We therefore need to ask where does our food come from and what has been used to produce it?
What’s on the label is not in your larder !
Today, more than ever, food is more a matter of ‘what to cook’ and not ‘how it should be cooked’. While an exhausting day at work could justify factory made coconut milk powder in a curry it might be good for the meal but not good enough for the palate which has sensed that something is amiss. When you let a food-corporation cook your food they cook differently than people do. Read any label and you can be sure that the ingredients on the label are not in your larder. The food industry is deliberately undermining home cooking by making the process of cooking sound tedious and time consuming while projecting their solution of ‘instant’ and ‘super convenient.’
Cooking is a process; labour and time intensive. This also explains why my food blog sky rockets when I announce I have a ‘food hack’ or an ‘easy recipe’ or (and this one’s a winner) a ‘quick fix meal’. Each time your microwave announces a task completed its electronic display ‘reminds’ you to ‘enjoy your meal’; that’s because it just ruined it for you and wants you to accept this as your new normal. Most foods require gentle heat; the lower and slower you cook your food, the better it will taste.
Reviving the Tapestry of Taste
Curries require the right ingredients, the right process and time. In the next article I will help you understand how chillies make a world of a difference to Goan cuisine and how red chilly powder from just about any packet is just no good. From the soil in which it is grown to the pot in which it is cooked, the ingredients and method of cooking makes all the difference in reviving the tapestry of taste.
Fr Warner D’Souza