Food for thought


My friend, who has to cook meals for a large family, told me rather unhappily, “In these many years, I must have dished out mountains of food. The most exasperating part is that it takes hours of toil to make it, but just a few minutes to demolish it.”
“Well,” I answered, “there is one thing that is worse and that is when it does not get demolished.” She smiled at this, her good humour restored.

Who can survive without food? It is the first need of every creature that is born and, quite likely, its last one too. Few things provide as much relish and enjoyment as food does. It is one of the greatest pleasures to be found in life. So highly do we value it, that we offer it in homage to our gods.

There are very few celebrations sans food, be it a birthday party, a wedding or even a death ceremony. If the food turns out to be middling, disappointment and even displeasure are sure to follow.

The varieties of eats that can be produced from a few basic ingredients are mind-boggling. The south Indian favourites, idlis, dosas and uthappams are all made from rice and dal. Yet how different they are from each other in taste, texture and shape!

How food is to be served has engaged the best and the most artistic minds. Crockery, cutlery, ambience and seating arrangements all have a role to play.

Brought together with finesse, they can make eating a truly memorable experience. Even the everyday cup of coffee transforms into a piece of art when capped in snowy peaks of cream ridged with dark chocolate. No wonder that celebrity dinners are carefully organised events. Preparations start weeks in advance so that they turn out to be affairs to remember.

Food has been the cause of upheavals and political events that have changed the course of history. Marie Antoinette’s words, “Let them eat cake if they have no bread” still echo as the voice of ignorance if not callousness.

The sharp-witted Bernard Shaw quipped, “The sincerest form of love is the love of food.” He was right. Even philosophers have to eat before they philosophise, proving beyond doubt that food indeed provides food for thought!

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