Exotica then and now

A dear friend, who is 67, is visiting these days. He had some wonderful stories to regale at dinner last night.

He was a child born in Scotland in the middle of World War II.

He said he first saw a banana when he was 11. Endlessly fascinating it was too, he added.

He was told that a pomegranate was delicious and when he first saw the bright red skin of a pomegranate, he bit into it and suddenly realised ‘yeuchh!‘ as the bitter juices of the skin hit his palate. Then someone told him, you only eat the seeds, not the skin.

He described how he and his childhood friend, K, who is a celebrated TV producer in the UK, once stole an avocado pear from K’s mother’s pantry. They had heard adults swoon over how delicious it was! They took the avocado pear and a knife and sat in the woods. They cut it into little chunks and with the first chunk, went ‘yeuchh!‘ again. What were those adults on about, he said they wondered! Avocados really are an acquired taste.

He said he had heard of a mango long before he saw one, so he had an idea what it might look like and how it might be eaten.

All this came from a simple question he was asked: have you ever eaten raw tamarind?

He added, “What did you want to know? You still think I would have seen a tamarind let alone eaten one if I had never seen a banana till I was 11?”

Even as I was doubling over with laughter – he is a great story-teller! – I could not help but remember a story from 3 years ago, when my god son was 5. He lives in London.

His mother took him to India, where on Delhi roads, he noticed a cow. “Look, Ma, a cow!” Ever the devoted Indian parent, keen to seize on an educational opportunity , the mother said, “Did you know cows give milk?”

Two days of radio silence ensued from the child, which the mother may have noticed but did not have time to panic over, as usually happens when one is on the annual visit to India.

Then he broke the silence, “Ma, but milk comes from Tesco!”

Ironic, really, that to a child born of Indian parents, a cow should be exotic!

Between my friend’s and my godson’s generations, what are we missing?

Are we swapping the pleasure of having mangoes in the supermarkets all the year round for the sense to know that they should really not be sold as ‘fresh’ fruit?

As the din of ‘eat local’ grows in the green brigade, do we even know any more what is local to us, if it were not for the elaborate food labelling laws of the land?

What is fresh anyway?

Why just the kids, even British adults seem not to know where their food comes from.

Sometimes I am uncertain if all our modernisation is a good thing, except for us to be able to blog about such stories and share with virtual friends in the blogosphere, many of whom, no thanks to technology, one may never meet!

18 thoughts on “Exotica then and now

  1. Very true. Lack of knowledge about how the food is produced and where it comes from is probably a big factor in the (unhealthy) food choices made by people. At least people are starting to realize that.

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  2. Very true. Lack of knowledge about how the food is produced and where it comes from is probably a big factor in the (unhealthy) food choices made by people. At least people are starting to realize that.

    Like

  3. Nice article Shefaly.
    It reminded me of my childhood summer days when my friends and i would go around mango trees throwing stones and picking up raw mangoes. I guess today’s children will never know the sheer joy of picking up raw mangoes and eating them with sea salt. For that matter i dont think kids today will appreciate the taste of raw mango.

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  4. Nice article Shefaly.
    It reminded me of my childhood summer days when my friends and i would go around mango trees throwing stones and picking up raw mangoes. I guess today’s children will never know the sheer joy of picking up raw mangoes and eating them with sea salt. For that matter i dont think kids today will appreciate the taste of raw mango.

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  5. @ Amit: Thanks. I should think that ignorance plays a part. My doctoral thesis case study is obesity in all its splendour and I am comparing the UK and the US. So I definitely think loss of this sensibility plays a not inconsiderable part in the weight gain ‘epidemic’.

    @ Madhuri: Thanks! Hmm. I think raw mango – like avocados or tamarind even – is an acquired taste 🙂 There is a sociological aspect to liking things as well. Parents who are not picky or rather who are adventurous invariably foster an environment where the child is not a picky eater. Peer group too plays a role else I may never have learnt to enjoy snails! There is a genetic explanation of preferences (I blogged about it on my Obesity blog some time ago) but I am more in the gene-environment interaction camp when genetic explanations are presented for things that are just too complicated and mired in cultural, social, behavioural dimensions.

    Thanks!

    Like

  6. @ Amit: Thanks. I should think that ignorance plays a part. My doctoral thesis case study is obesity in all its splendour and I am comparing the UK and the US. So I definitely think loss of this sensibility plays a not inconsiderable part in the weight gain ‘epidemic’.

    @ Madhuri: Thanks! Hmm. I think raw mango – like avocados or tamarind even – is an acquired taste 🙂 There is a sociological aspect to liking things as well. Parents who are not picky or rather who are adventurous invariably foster an environment where the child is not a picky eater. Peer group too plays a role else I may never have learnt to enjoy snails! There is a genetic explanation of preferences (I blogged about it on my Obesity blog some time ago) but I am more in the gene-environment interaction camp when genetic explanations are presented for things that are just too complicated and mired in cultural, social, behavioural dimensions.

    Thanks!

    Like

  7. You are right Shefaly. My parents are not picky eaters and may be that is why i am adventurous(also because a part of my life was spent in hostels where one learns to eat without bias). I haven’t tried escargots but unlike my other bong friends, do delight in sushi.

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  8. You are right Shefaly. My parents are not picky eaters and may be that is why i am adventurous(also because a part of my life was spent in hostels where one learns to eat without bias). I haven’t tried escargots but unlike my other bong friends, do delight in sushi.

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  9. No way. All you have to do is bite into a raw mango and you’ve acquired the taste! It’s sour-er than any sour candy in any store. I had this drink called Am Panna on a recent trip. Its extract of raw mango mixed with sugar syrup and mint. Tasted all the better cause I picked the mangoes meself. I’m thinking of creating an Indian mojito that way. Damn, why did I say that out loud, now everyone knows.
    What’s wrong with modernization? Its good that we’re able to enjoy food from everywhere and in plenty. Let’s worry about it when there are obese people in Sub Saharan Africa. Just because we feel guilty for an abundant choice in food and because we (me) are fat as hell doesn’t mean modernization is bad.
    Oh..the good old days, back when our Lasalle ran great and infant mortality rate meant you had to have 10 kids just to beat the odds.

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  10. No way. All you have to do is bite into a raw mango and you’ve acquired the taste! It’s sour-er than any sour candy in any store. I had this drink called Am Panna on a recent trip. Its extract of raw mango mixed with sugar syrup and mint. Tasted all the better cause I picked the mangoes meself. I’m thinking of creating an Indian mojito that way. Damn, why did I say that out loud, now everyone knows.
    What’s wrong with modernization? Its good that we’re able to enjoy food from everywhere and in plenty. Let’s worry about it when there are obese people in Sub Saharan Africa. Just because we feel guilty for an abundant choice in food and because we (me) are fat as hell doesn’t mean modernization is bad.
    Oh..the good old days, back when our Lasalle ran great and infant mortality rate meant you had to have 10 kids just to beat the odds.

    Like

  11. Anangbhai: Thanks for your note!

    Yes, the good old days were actually the bad old days. I am not so convinced that the good now-a-days is very good either. We have to invent medical improvements just to keep up with the alarming rate of lifestyle diseases mushrooming. Some call it economic growth, of course.

    (And I research obesity, have done so for the last few years for a doctoral degree, but I write elsewhere about it, not here.)

    Thanks.

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  12. Anangbhai: Thanks for your note!

    Yes, the good old days were actually the bad old days. I am not so convinced that the good now-a-days is very good either. We have to invent medical improvements just to keep up with the alarming rate of lifestyle diseases mushrooming. Some call it economic growth, of course.

    (And I research obesity, have done so for the last few years for a doctoral degree, but I write elsewhere about it, not here.)

    Thanks.

    Like

  13. That’s cool. Hopefully you will find and publish a reason for obesity that has nothing to do with placing blame on the person who is obese. I’m a victim of society! Honest! Give me free money for a situation of my own making.

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  14. That’s cool. Hopefully you will find and publish a reason for obesity that has nothing to do with placing blame on the person who is obese. I’m a victim of society! Honest! Give me free money for a situation of my own making.

    Like

  15. anangbhai, it’s not a question of going back to the good old days, but evaluating the faults of the current system and correcting them, as we continue to move forward.
    Obesity is the gateway to other chronic diseases, and there are lots of reports on how obesity and other related diseases negatively impact the society as a whole, whether it be (higher) taxes or loss of productivity.
    I love aam panna that you are talking about. My mom used to make it during summer days, and it was the perfect drink to cool off. 🙂

    Like

  16. anangbhai, it’s not a question of going back to the good old days, but evaluating the faults of the current system and correcting them, as we continue to move forward.
    Obesity is the gateway to other chronic diseases, and there are lots of reports on how obesity and other related diseases negatively impact the society as a whole, whether it be (higher) taxes or loss of productivity.
    I love aam panna that you are talking about. My mom used to make it during summer days, and it was the perfect drink to cool off. 🙂

    Like

  17. @ Anangbhai: Amit articulates the point well. What is the point of a past if we are going to repeat similar or the same mistakes?

    After years of researching obesity, I am afraid I no longer frame it as simply as it is someone’s own fault. It is way more complex in its aetiology, and in its impact. That it is a problem affecting many, rather than a few suggests that it needs attention and alternatives which can reduce its prevalence. Thanks.

    That Aam Panna thing is a common North Indian drink. I sometimes make it here too! It is easy although somehow it does not last as long as it did in my father’s house. May be it was the fact that we did not make our own drinks as children 😉

    Thanks both.

    Like

  18. @ Anangbhai: Amit articulates the point well. What is the point of a past if we are going to repeat similar or the same mistakes?

    After years of researching obesity, I am afraid I no longer frame it as simply as it is someone’s own fault. It is way more complex in its aetiology, and in its impact. That it is a problem affecting many, rather than a few suggests that it needs attention and alternatives which can reduce its prevalence. Thanks.

    That Aam Panna thing is a common North Indian drink. I sometimes make it here too! It is easy although somehow it does not last as long as it did in my father’s house. May be it was the fact that we did not make our own drinks as children 😉

    Thanks both.

    Like

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