The aroma of food, wafting from the eateries while I walk down the streets after long working hours, takes me back to my home. As I graze on the vast memory of the past that is somehow related to food, it helps me ease my stress and weariness. Say a smell of a roasted corn or a sweet potato in the hearth, a festive occasion in the house or loitering around a village marketplace. Each smell creates an avalanche of memories. Oh! The musky, oily, spicy and a mixture of rich aroma of different flavours remind me of a chatpatiwallah, chholawallahor a paan-pasale(betel-nut shop owner) in the local market.
One thing that always pesters my mind is –‘favourite food first or last?’ I remember my youngest brother saving a dollop of sweet gundpak and bartering it with small precious things when other kids (including me) finished their share. The little trader is not the same and grown into a young man but he is still exchanging the sweet with goodies in my dream. My wife often talks about Aluko Achar, pickled boiled potatoes, prepared by her sister and our son wishes to be with his great uncle during weekends to have the dishes of his choice in some posh restaurants in Kathmandu. However, it does not mean that we do not get things of our taste in Australia. We have more choices here but we terribly miss the sense of belongingness.
Food is love. Food is also anger, sustenance, deprivation, joy, loneliness, rage, hatred, ritual, surprise, laughter, history, power and more as Bunny Crumpacker states in her book The Sex Life of Food. Above all, food is memory. We remember a nearly infinite series of incidents behind us back to childhood. Food memories, most of them forgotten or blurred, are a mystical heritage, long since digested and gone, but still lingering in our lives. Food of different varieties determines who we are, what we love, what disgusts us and what makes us feel better.
The dilemma of my childhood – favourite food first or last? slowly or quickly? big bites or small bites? – still remains the same. It was last week when I was having dinner with some workmates. Never heard or imagined before, there was fried ice-cream for our dessert. They dragged the chef right in front of me to satisfy my curiosity how ice-cream can be fried. “Dip the scooped ice-cream in batter and give a quick fry in boiling oil. And you can also pour some wine on the top of the scooped ice-cream and burn it to create a scorching new flavour,” the man furnished a quick reply. He was in real haste as it was a Friday night.
The fried ice-cream was just perfect. And what do you think about iced-tea or iced-coffee? I always had in my mind that tea and coffee are hot drinks. Cold tea and coffee are never served in my country. To my surprise, there are about a dozen of different brands of iced-tea and coffee in a supermarket here. Thirst crushing icy cold tea and coffee! It just doesn’t make sense if I talk about kangaroo steak or crocodile meat-burger. For me all cooking is mother’s. Good or bad as we imagine it to be. It’s home and it’s love that certainly makes a difference.
– Khagendra Bhattarai, Melbourne, Australia