Imagine this – let’s say you are out with someone you’ve just met. The restaurant you are in is exquisite and the food you’ve ordered looks delicious. The moment the person you are with starts eating, whether you realise it or not, you’ve already judged the person. You’ve made up your mind about the kind of person you are with.
It is safe to say then, that the way we eat defines who we are and where we hail from.
Food is an essential part of all our lives. The way people gather, behave and discuss food across continents is influenced by culture. If the Asians are touted to arrange their tableware on the floor and eat with their hands, the Japanese make a slurping noise while consuming their food to show appreciation. Some countries have three-course meals whereas some countries do not have a designated time to eat.
India’s cuisine is as diverse as its culture. Appetisers and meals include the usage of variety of spices and are prepared differently in different parts of the country. Each region is known for specific kinds of food.
According to Indian history, back in the 12th century, a lot of attention was given to the way dishes were cooked and how they tasted. Indian spices and herbs were one of the most sought after trade commodities. To this day, the differing uses of spices in Indian dishes are in demand.
Most chefs in India describe the Thali system, which has an assortment of bread, rice, vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and dessert, as eating pre-plated food. Plating of Indian cuisine involves mixing spices, flavours and colours to make an Indian dish look like a western dish. The catch, here, is to have an understanding of how to blend different flavours together.
Although the Thali system is quite popular in India, presentation of food to make it look appetising is still not far behind. Chefs use garnishes imaginatively to make dishes look attractive. Even the type and colour of metal ware to be used is given a lot of importance.
As much as experimentation of food and its style is being undertaken, visual representation is increasingly distinct across different parts of the world. Satish Venkatachaliah, Head of the Table, Something’s Cooking Culinary Arts Private Limited, seems to agree. “If you look at European and French cuisine, their visual representation is very artistic. It’s not just about the use of meat or the cooking style, but they make sure it looks visually appealing. If you look at India, for instance, visual representation may not play a huge role,” he says.
Indian food may be getting better in terms of presentation in fine dining restaurants, but with buffet style of serving food gaining momentum, it still falls behind. “Not only is the concept of self-service changing in India, but with buffet style of serving food, apart from setting the buffet table, plating is given the least importance here,” says Satish
Therefore, the kind of food we eat and the way we eat speaks volumes about the kind of people we are and is also heavily influenced by the culture we belong to.
Amitha H.B. is a 22-year-old aspiring journalist from Bangalore. Obsessed with movies and TV shows; you’ll generally find her discussing them at length when she is not writing. She currently works as a freelance writer with Campus Diaries.