Monday, July 31, 2017

It's food, you moron. Just food.

The summer before moving to the US, I was trying to find a classmate I could share an apartment with. I had set up time to chat with an American girl who was also looking for a flatmate at the time, and when we spoke, one of her first comments to me was "OMG I have to tell you, I love Indian food. And I make amazing chicken tikka masala!"

At the time, I laughed politely, but I remember thinking in my head - what on earth is chicken tikka masala?

When I moved to the US, I had several people tell me how amazing chicken tikka masala was. And it turned out to be served in the cafeteria whenever they had Indian food, in every Indian restaurant I went to, and by friends who said they cooked great Indian food. It looked like butter chicken, but tasted... blah. And for the life of me I couldn't figure out what this oh-so-popular dish was that I'd never managed to ever even hear of in Delhi.

Then of course, I read up on it, learned it was invented in the UK, and proceeded to roll my eyes and avoid having it as much as possible.

I have nothing against chicken tikka masala, I am just against people who have never lived in India telling me that Indian food is amazing when that is the only "Indian food" they've ever had.

This tweet popped up on my timeline yesterday:

This tweet made me hungry, but also made me think of another pet peeve that's been bubbling up recently.

I'm offsite tomorrow, at a location that is five minutes away from my favourite Indian restaurant in the city - their gulab jamun is to DIE for. And then I'm in NYC later this week, and have as usual already checked how far my hotel is to the closest location for The Kati Roll Co. The same coworker is going to be with me at both the offsite and in NY, and her reaction when I told her was "you want to have Indian food twice in a week?"

This isn't the first time I've got this question. When I came back from India last year, someone suggested an Indian place for lunch, and then paused and asked me if I was okay with that since I'd just come back.

First of all, can we be clear about something. For you, it's Indian food. For me, it's food. I grew up eating it. I live to eat it. Sure, pasta is great, as is Chipotle. And yes, I will admit, when I go home to India, I actually never eat Indian Indian food there, because I want my Indian versions of pasta and fried rice. But Indian food is just... food.

Second of all*, do you have any idea how many types of cuisine exist in India? I grew up there, and I don't know. Just because YOU have never bothered to eat anything other than chicken tikka masala, does not mean that's all there is to the subcontinent. In fact, show me one restaurant in Delhi that actually serves the blessed dish, and I... well, I'll promise to never visit that restaurant, that's what I'll do.

I mean, I could literally have "Indian food" every day for the next fortnight, and not have the same thing two days in a row. Less than a 5 minutes drive from my apartment is a chaat place, a dosa place, a chettinad place, a desi Chinese place, a Punjabi khana place, 3-4 biryani places, and half a dozen of those places that do buffets and serve a bit of everything. (Yes, I do live in the Little India area of this city). Literally the only thing missing from my life is Bengali food, although if I'm really craving it, I force my self to go to the Bangladeshi restaurant that makes mughlai parathas. And on occasion, I even manage to cook stuff that is somewhat edible.

So if I say I want to go have chaat even though I came back from India last week, or if I want to have a Maharaja thali on Tuesday and an Achari Paneer kathi roll on Thursday**, save the disbelief and pity a little. Because one of those is not like the others, and you're a moron to think otherwise.

End rant.

* I will confess, I was going to say secondly, but then I remembered this:

** Yes, you're right. There is a very good chance I have kathi rolls on Wednesday too if my flight gets in on time, but I'll probably do the Chana Masala roll that day. Although I just checked, and they have a Kosha Mangsho roll too that I've never tried, so it's 50-50 at this point.

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