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Narratives of the Food Casanova

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A true food lover possesses a Shakespearean passion for food. A secretive hot and heavy relationship that sizzles in the dark of the night. Floats in the light of the day. And offers that entire mix of temptations, indulgences, and even a spiritual liberation when you just want to drop to your knees and prostrate to the almighty in fervent thanks for this heavenly pleasure on earth.

Food is just not food.

It’s art. It’s music. It’s nature. It’s balinese massages. It’s all that the senses need to come alive.

Only a true food Casanova can understand the passion that it evokes. The nuances of this torrid affair. The ones who eat because it’s a necessary part of life – they are on a completely different wavelength. They cannot comprehend the emotion. They cannot comprehend the tears that well up at the end of a wonderful meal that makes up for all the wrongs that have been committed against you in life or perhaps just on that day. It may just appear to be melodrama. But oh what glorious melodrama. Oh what joy there is when something wonderfully tasty lands on your thirsty tongue and the juices in your mouth just jump in joy to hug their long lost friend. Might be that spicy fried chicken or that mushy chocolate mousse or just that single morsel of hot soft rice drenched in dal and dipped in ghee.It’s a big fat magic pill. It’s the hug of a hundred mothers. Hush my little baby. It shall be okay. It shall all be okay. Just eat and sleep and heal.

Yes amma … Yes..amma ….. ..

Loving food has little to do with the stomach and more to do with the mouth. Ok that sounds a little gross so I am just going to refer to the oral equipment involved as the Littles. The Lips, The Tongue, and The Teeth. All of the Littles have their opinion on what they like and what they don’t. At any given point any of the Littles can start pleading for a treat. And as a food lover you know that if you ignore their pleas for long – they react like children. Turning stubborn and demanding until the only way out is to get them what they want. And you might have to upturn a lot of things to get them what they want. I am sure tons of memories sprung to life right now. Sure did with me. The midnight Seven Eleven runs for that  one ball of Ferrero Rocher. The one hour train ride to get to the supermarket that carried the brand of beef I liked. The waits to fly to a destination and go straight to that restaurant that steamed the fish just the right way and garnished it with the right amount of green chillies sliced just to the right thinness. Oh – I have million such experiences. And fellow food casanovas – I am sure you have too.

But pay heed to my warning if you are a recently turned food casanova (perhaps due to a hormonal change or a recently change in state of affluence)- Learn to keep them in check. By them I mean the Littles. If  you don’t master  them, they will master you. Promise.

The Lips

The Lips usually yearn for the soft soft cool cool smooth smooth stuff. Bear in mind that it’s the inner lip that’s active. You know that soft part that rests against your teeth? Now these are the Lips that crave. The outer ones are utilitarian. When a craving hits the Lips, it comes slow. Very leisurely. Like that little breeze that sneaks out of the corners of the trees on a warm day. That little breeze slowly but steadily turns into lots of little breezes. Dancing about like Aishwarya Rai’s extras in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s song. And if you don’t satisfy it soon enough, Salman Khans of the mouth ooze out from the point where the Lips meet the teeth. Filling up the swirling space between them with their teasing movements. And if you still continue to ignore the Lips, the mouth Salman Khan will start signalling his army which will start dancing around the white pillars that grace the palace of the Littles. Juicy mango. Cool chocolate mousse. Hot chocolate fudge. Ghee dripping rasagulla. Amma’s homemade pudding. Thinly sliced Kiwi. Rasperry sorbet. Just give it. Give it what it wants before the the little Salman starts tearing his shirt off!

The Tongue

I love indulging the Tongue. Because it’s the most mysterious. It’s the poet of the Littles’ Palace. The wandering Sufi. The meditating Saint. It lives in its own world. It’s own realm. I sometimes tend to think that the Tongue reflects the yearnings of the heart. It never thinks of something concrete. It just wants – something sweet – something sour – something soursweet – something liquid – something spicy – something sweetnspicy – something hard – something soft – something ….. something. It’s always a something. And not all of the Tongue speaks at once. Sometimes it’s the right underside that craves the sweet. Sometimes it’s the root that craves the spicy fried. Sometimes it’s the top that craves that sweet liquid. Or Sometimes it’s the way back that craves the sweet and sour and tangy. And it’s the bang center that shouts for the salt. Some of you just had the “Oh Yeahhh” moment right? If you are a true Casanova – you would already be attuned to these nuances. The tongue would be your favourite mistress to indulge. Because she keeps you guessing and never fails to bring that smile on your face with her reactions. And with the tongue – it’s always leisurely. It’s always a stroll in the palace. You take your time. Savour everything. Enjoy - every. little bit. And if you don’t indulge her – there are no tantrums – just a quiet sadness that sinks a well in your heart. And in time you’ll make up for what you denied her.

The Teeth

The Teeth – well what can be said about the Food Casanova’s teeth? I am sure you find them coming alive fellow casanova when Mel Gibson energy is bursting out of you. When the Teeth want – there is no denying them. No sir. No ma’am. You can’t do nothing to keep them in check. When they grind for that pound of flesh or that crunch of nuts or just that tearing and slicing into something tough – bow down before their will or they will go on a rampage – chomping on anything and everything that comes their way. And tragically they may not even injest it. Just chew and spit until the right stuff finds its way home. Steak. Deep Fried Chicken. Sugarcane. Find one of these three. If you are desperate – then just hunt for some carrot. It will calm them down for a while. But just for a while. But head straight for the tough ones or you will surely end up pulp yourself. Or someone else around you. Hey, the rule in my book is that if my boss is craving some chicken. I order it some chicken. Because I know if it doesn’t get some chicken – I’ll  be it. The harried hen in the pen.

Sometimes all the Littles get hyper. Clamouring for attention. There are some foods that are complete foods for all the Littles. Like Ferrero Rocher. Biting through one is like biting through earth itself. The grainy top layer that gives way to the soft clay-like encasing that paves way for that molten heavenly chocolate with a surprise hazelnut in waiting. Aaaah …..

No life as a food Casanova is complete without those explicit tales of food. Recounting each little detail like it’s your dream wedding or a hostage rescue in the Sea. It always easy to spot true blue-blooded food Casanovas. No, don’t go by size. Remember it’s all about the palace of the Littles? Casanovas eat to indulge the Littles not the tummy. So some of them may eat lots – but in variety. Not in quantity. You’ll know a food  Casanova when food comes up in the first three conversations you have with them. You know a certified Casanova when they suggest a restaurant not because its good, but it’s got this something particular that tastes something particular, and blows their mind something particular, and you just have to have it or they just have to have it. And you’ll know a food Casanova with a PHD when they will spend twenty minutes telling you what they are planning to eat for dinner. The precise combination and quantity. Their eyes will light up, their faces will beam, and their voices will gurgle with an excitement that one usually experiences only when they are setting out to do something for the first time. Like sail. Or jump off a cliff. Or feed a crocodile.

Life as a food Casanova is exhilarating for me and I could write a thesis on my trysts with food. But for now this will do.

Of all the passions in my life – my passion for food is the most consistent. Most faithful. I don’t know if I am the mistress or if it is the master.

All I know is that I am crazy in love.

Always have been.

Always will be.