Mummy versus Maggi: Who will come out on top

  • Khushwant Singh
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2015 11:47 IST

In life, you don’t build relationships with living beings only. A bond can happen with food and drinks too, just like a Punjabi’s tryst with butter chicken and and a gora’s with fish and chips.

Well, whatever the Swiss might think about Maggi, after I had shown the empty wrapper to my mother, her immediate reaction was “this is nira gandh”

Here, I am talking about my love and hate relationship with Maggi which I realised only after Maggi got into a soup. My relationship with the two-minute instant noodles dates back to 1980, when I tasted it for the first time. My classmate Sunit Gulati’s father had just acquired a distribution for Maggi in Chandigarh and as part of a promotional campaign was distributing it among school children for free.

I still remember tearing apart the yellow wrapper almost instantaneously and eating the noodles raw, oblivious to the fact that they needed to be cooked for two minutes.

Maggi, a synonym for noodles was invented in the middle of the nineteenth century, after Switzerland’s public welfare society asked a miller Julius Maggi to prepare a vegetable food that would be tasty and quick to prepare. The reason was that the Industrial Revolution in Switzerland had created ample jobs for women as a result of which they had less time to prepare food.

Maggi, son of an Italian immigrant who was also known for his nutritious approach to food, came out with the idea to bring added taste to meals which became an instant hit among the Swiss middle class families. In 1890, he founded the company Society Anonym pour la Fabrication des Products Alimentative Maggi (SAF) in Germany and Austria which was taken over by Alimentana in 1934. In 1947, Alimentana merged with Nestle which introduced Maggi to the rest of the world. One Carlo Donati gave the name Maggi to the product to keep its image of healthy and a fast food to cook and a French painter Etienne Maurice Firmin Bouisset designed the logo (source: Maggi case study).

Well, whatever the Swiss might think about Maggi, after I had shown the empty wrapper to my mother, her immediate reaction was “this is nira gandh”. Wow! How did she know what a Gorakhpur lab came to know after 35 years? I guess moms know everything, but then when you are in Class 2 you don’t really care.

Sure enough, I was gobbling Maggi again but this time in its two-minute version, at another classmate’s house after which it crept into our daily menu.

My mother’s resistance to it also dwindled day by day, as a Maggi tantrum became a norm, which according to my mom was more hazardous than Maggi itself.

Also, by now the family had acquired a television and the Maggi advertisement was a regular feature. The jingle, ‘Mummy bhook laggi hai, bus do minute, Maggi Maggi Maggi,’ further softened mommies who thought it was rubbish. They felt that the instant noodles had made life easier and consumed less LPG and moreover it was a Nestle brand.

Cooking Maggi with the chicken garlic flavour tastemaker was also my introduction to the culinary world since my mother was fine as long as we cooked Maggi by adding vegetables or boiled chicken. New recipes emerged daily, so did new timings to eat it. From an evening snack, it became an alltime snack, even though I regret not knowing about its lead content before. Had I known, I could have easily torn apart a few more wrappers to build a fauladi body.

The calendar moved to 2004 and it was the turn of my six-year-old son to throw a ‘zidd’ over Maggi. ‘Nira Gandh’, I said, the moment I saw my house help getting Maggi noodles on a plate. How do you know, asked my wife? I just know, I replied. Men aren’t supposed to reveal to their wives that it is because mummy thinks so.

History repeated itself, though by now there were many varieties of Maggi. I got hooked to Maggi again thanks to my son, though there were many other brands of instant noodles in the market by now. The reason to stick with Maggi was the same again. Nestle, the onus is on you to prove that mummy and governments can get it wrong. Or is the Modi Sarkar like mummy never wrong?

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