Thursday, July 12, 2007


Food TV, Disney and Travel are our default channels. If only Raven or Hannah Montana cooked up meals in 30 minutes on a boat in Indonesia, we could consolidate into one default! We also watch a lot of the offbeat shows like “The Manic Organic” (a new one I just caught the other day), Anthony Bourdain’s travels and this Zimmerman guy who eats anything that had a face (bugs, iguanas, cow skin).

We liked Emeril before he became “Emeril Live!” That program is so over the top because of the audience and the band. However, I have to chuckle when he puts “extra garlic” or “let’s add some more butter and olive oil.” The audience goes nuts! They start cheering! I don’t get that. It’s as if he’s giving them permission to enjoy the foods that are banned. Butter is bad for you, oil is bad for you, garlic keeps away vampires, chocolate is bad for you, etc. And, the way he says "Oh yeah, baby" is so seductive, too.

I have to wonder what my paternal grandmother, Sushila Ba, would have said if she were here. She was a simple woman from a small town in Gujarat. She was married in her early teens to a good Brahmin family that owned land. Her husband was a farmer and she raised six children, though she had more pregnancies.

Though she wore a widow’s white sari when I knew her, she figuratively wore the pants in the family! She ruled the house and her word was final, even her husband knew. My father said she had a sharp memory and an equally sharp tongue. Had she lived and been educated today, she would’ve been very successful in corporate litigation.

Anyway, I remember when she came to visit when I was 13. She would watch American TV, though she didn’t understand English. She would laugh at the commercials.

“How can they eat plain rice” as she watched Uncle Ben’s commercial.

During the Campbell’s Soup commercials she’d say, “Watch him. He’ll take a bite. Now he’ll show his teeth! Haha.. What’s there to get so excited about? That useless dummy!”

The Gujarati phrase, “show his teeth” was a favorite phrase of hers to say someone is smiling. She had the small town dialect, which added to it.

Anyway, food is very important in the Gujarati household. We show love through food, we show hospitality through food, we find comfort and camaraderie through food. Gujaratis are known for having the most sensually indulgent food – fried, sweet, spicy, and creative – there’s a perfect food for every occasion and time. Plus, overabundance and a varied selection are the foundation of the Gujarati meal.

(Note: to prove how much love there is in our homes, diabetes is rampant in both family lines!)

So, if Sushila Ba was watching Emeril, she would yell back at him. I know it.

“What spice? How can you do that? You simply put garlic. Is that it? Arre oh, Bhai-sahib, at least put some ginger and mirchi in. What is this?”

She would probably turn to me and say, “This food won’t have any swaad. How can it? He added nothing to it.”

Then she would probably break into a story about what they ate at the last wedding party and how many Brahmins they had to serve for good luck. And, how far guests travelled to come. Then, she would turn back to the TV and continue her critique.

“Why does he keep dancing? What’s wrong with these people? Just sitting there watching him cook? Then clapping? Useless people.”


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