“The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating”. — John Walters
You guessed it right, I am a foodie. And not just an ordinary calorie hungry type, but Thalilover who is spoiled by years of sumptuous food- “the great Indian Thali”. Let’s not get into the reasons behind this odd obsession, but I believe many of us while locked into our homes would be drooling at the site of the above thali.
Thali is a universe on a flat plate_ Yours only
It is as if a magician has conjured all the tasty, healthy and best smelling food together. It has all the nutrients prescribed for a balanced diet. It has absolutely anything and everything one can wish for.
While the thali remains the ultimate choice of food, let’s be practical. With COVID-19 lockdown, the cooks are gone, restaurants are shut, food ordering is limited, and I miss my mother more than ever.
So how should I have The Thali?
You must be wondering that if I like thali so much, why don’t I make it myself?
In fact, the first few days of lockdown were quite encouraging. I cooked chhole- puri one day, Dosa the other day and the Magna opus kadhi pakoda last weekend. But I still couldn’t muster enough courage to make the whole thali.
Why? That’s exactly what this article is about!
For starters, I did my own “research” and asked around whether it is only me or fellow millennials as well who face a similar existential crisis. And to my surprise, none of them have ever attempted to go for the ultimate thali preparation, but they all do share the craving for a sumptuous whole thali.
Next, I inquired as to what they were cooking.
So here are few insights about bachelor cooking habits under lockdown:
Fruits & vegetables have become history- Banana, Potatoes, and Onions have become the universal staples, owing to the fact that they have a high shelf life, and zero processing involved in the case of bananas.
Curd, Ketchup, Nutella, mom’s pickle & packaged snacks have become the best friend. This food category is the only continuity since before the lockdown, and the intake has risen manifold.
Chapati. This round food is nowhere to be found or talked about. Even in a Punjabi habitat, dwellers have not heard of this phenomenon called Roti, fulka, paratha etc.because of the cooking hassle involved.
So, what are we eating?
All types of contemporary bachelor dishes can be summarized into four major food categories.
1. Rice dishes like fried rice, pulao, khichdi, curd rice, etc. It’s a rip off version of thali and one-pot dish where you get the opportunity to add all your fantasies of vegetables, paneer, mushrooms, and whatnot. Listening to one post, I even added Nigella seeds (Kalonji) which is supposed to be the cure for COVID-19, so claims a friend on WhatsApp. And the rice tasted soooo GOOD! Another benefit is that you can have it with curd, daal, sauce, pickle, etc.
2. Bread derivatives like cheese toast, bread butter, Nutella sandwich, etc. This is for brunch. Especially when I wake up daily around 2pm out of starvation, bread comes to our rescue. Cooking is instantaneous, easy and requires no skills at all.
3. Egg dishes like bhurji, omelet, scrambled eggs, etc. This is for explorers, the #yolo ones who are bored with the same food daily. However, egg dishes remains the highest level of excellence that a bachelor can attain in cooking.
4. Ready-to-eat food. These are packaged, pre-cooked, and can be made in 2–3 steps. This is the bachelor’s way of contributing to the economy. It is not their food of choice but the food of the majority. For example, 2-min noodles (the one which cannot be named) being dumbest food to cook is what we bachelors thrive upon.
Now, what if we have to compare all these ‘sophisticated’ bachelor’s delights against our traditional Indian Thali? Who do you think will win?
For that, we need to come up with some criteria for comparison. And based on their significance to bachelors lets assign coefficients to each of them.
1. Ease of cooking (coefficient 3): This is the most important criterion. Being a highly evolved form of sapiens we are, after conquering war, plague, famine, and the mighty storms, our species’ only target remains convenience and self-fulfillment. In short, any recipe involving more than 3 steps is a complete no go.
2. Time for preparation (coefficient 3): While busy in the pursuit of the millennial goals mentioned above, it’s a crime to waste any second, #yolo. I mean, where is the time left when I must binge-watch 14 hours of a series every single day!
3. Availability (coefficient 2): We are the architects of the future and unless we stop our orthodox practices like shopping from physical stores, how would the world move forward? Anything which is not available online doesn’t exist. So dear fresh foods, it’s your loss if you are not on my cart.
4. Nutrition (coefficient 1): in every war, there is collateral damage and casualties. And what can a nutritional diet really do for a person smoking a dozen per day, right? We are not healthcare skeptics, but the true disciples of science and optimists of the future.
5. Taste (coefficient 1): this is the biggest sacrifice a bachelor makes in the holy war of convenience. However, we do have ammunitions like Nutella, ketchup, and Maggi masala to help endure these sufferings.
Once we plot each of the four food categories versus the Thali and rate them from 0 to 10, 0 being least score against that criterion and 10 being the highest, we can produce results as below:
Thus we clearly see that the great Indian thali has somewhat disappointed us millennials. And I feel that it’s about time the bachelor’s version of thali should be invented.
And right now, all I can dream about is, fast forward to May 5th, my doorbell rings and I wake to welcome my cook after the lockdown is over. And he asks me that beautiful question, “what should I cook for you today?”
I guess you know the answer — “The Great Indian Thali”.
And thereafter we will live happily ever after.