People eat while standing, driving, walking, talking or even doing acrobatic tricks nowadays. Fast-food joints are in their best business times, thanks to the general public's becoming non-serious about diet. We have forgotten that we are what we eat; that our food affects us in more ways than one; that it rules and determines our mindset; that fast food is easy to ingest but hard to digest.
It reminds me of a woman we called Auntyji. She was my mother's friend in the late 1960s when we lived in Haryana, where my late father worked as a headmaster in a government high school. Very active and healthy, Auntyji had two strict rules about her diet - first, it had to be homemade and simple; and second, she would eat it quietly and on the floor. One day, I took an urgent message from my mother to her; and had to wait for quite some time before she was over with her meal and available to talk. Unknowingly, Auntyji was following Fletcherism, propagated by American dietician Horace Fletcher, who argued that food should be chewed about 100 times per minute before being swallowed - "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate."
All this food talk brings to my mind one of the fruit-juice shops on the university campus I frequent with my husband. It is under a grove of shady trees, an abode to cuckoos and numerous other birds who give the place a celestial ambience with their constant chirping and singing. The shop is a family enterprise, selling fruit salad as well to the innumerable customers. The husband is in charge of preparing the juice, while the wife chops fruits for the salad. Their children join them when their school gets over; and they help their parents in all sorts of chores such as peeling, chopping, and doing the dishes.
It is nice to see boys and girls throng the place for either juice or salad. The customers sit on the chairs provided there so that they could relax, chat, have group discussion - all while they relish the refreshments served there. You can tell that they are health conscious. Fine behaviour is on display when the students make payments. An onlooker cannot but be all praise for the modern generation's etiquette. And what bliss to reckon that they are our future!
It reminds me of French lawyer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin - who gained fame as an epicure and gastronome - and of his immortal words: "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are."
The writer is a Ludhiana-based freelance contributor