Friday, April 01, 2005

Love fine food, ergo cannot become fashionista

What happiness! I finally managed to snag a copy of "Dastarkhwan-e-Awadh", if only for a month. A sharp punter tipped me about the possibility of using my university's vast resources and wide electronic reach to good use. Interlibrary loan Zito and Zindabad! The book's fantastic, I wish it had a lot more background information, but that's just my usual nitpicking. The emphasis of the book is definitely on elite kitchens, though many of the recipes are prepared in tiny streetside stalls in Lucknow and can legitimately be called people's cuisine. The recipes are gorgeous, a trifle elaborate (oh heck! very elaborate) by modern Indian kitchen standards, but certainly no more than the fuss of French haute cuisine.

Funny that my last post should have been about Saad, because it was he who first enlightened me regarding the differences between a "sheermal" and a "baqarkhani", both different kinds of breads prepared in Northern India, but often confused as the same by many in India. They feature in the breads section of the book, along with "taftun", one among many Persian culinary imports. There is also a nice recipe for "sewaiiyon ka muzaffar" a luscious dessert prepared with vermicelli and reduced milk solids, garnished with dates, almonds and raisins. My former colleague Sabiha used to make it every Eid for us in the office. This is food that even in it's extravagance is so familiar, so intimate and integrally embedded in the cultural ethos of growing up in Northern India. Oh, and thank you Mr. Saxena, for stating what I had always suspected. That "biryani" was never considered elite food, in fact for the aristocracy the rice recipes of choice were the pulaos. Not dissimilar to the Persian pollo, but with the South Asian contribution of subtle and complex spicing.

And tomorrow, I pay tribute at the altar of consumerism, joining several fashionistas in a mad scramble that is the curious outcome of the state of contemporary global garment trade. Problem is, people just cannot consume fast enough to keep up with changing trends and styles, hence enormous backlogs that make even items chic three months ago look dated now. And then, there is the other byproduct of the diffused, decentralized garment industry, the sample sale, of stuff that may have been made and is worn by everyone's grandma, or unique items of clothing made by a future Dries van Noten. I hardly follow trends, and am actually feeling a wee bit embarassed showing up my slovenly self at such a vanity fest (the last time I went to the California Mart, even the doorman was better dressed than me). But I find the clothing industry fascinating, and love following the work of designers I consider especially creative. In fact, I just might save up enough to buy a Sophia Kokosalaki dress one day. Not tomorrow, though where I'd mostly people watch and rummage through the occasional discount bin.


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