Understanding the fleeting consumer preference in rural and urban areas both - has an interesting aspect associated with markets. With the FMCG permeation in almost every pocket of the country the rural have greater access to goods and products - which could have been luxury commodities to them once.
Take a kirana shop today in the remotest corner of the country - and one would find brands marketing consumables from potato chips to corn flakes. Similar consumer behavior follows suit in the suave lunch wagons with the townsfolk inundating their kitchens and living rooms with green, nature friendly, collectibles from all across 'rur-ban' India - from organic flour to desi oat meals aka the Millets.
While the former tastes and preferences of the rural classes show tangible yet marginal improvement in purchasing power; the latter corroborates to the more contemporary farm to fork 'glo-cal' transformation of the urban platter. Organic or natural delicacies have found a special place on the menu card of city consumers. Staple foods of the tribal or rural inhabitants have transpired into the more celebrated foods of the urban thereby creating markets and myriad supply chains benefitting consumers and producers, both. John Schwartz attributed such adaptations to the The Great Food Migration.
Take local Varagu (Kodo millet) in Tamil Nadu or the Kutki, Ragi, Sama, Jowar (millets) from central parts of the country. Ragi biscuits, millet laddoo, upma or the healthier foxtail corn flakes have come to dominate the breakfast choices and recipes of the health conscious. The belt surrounding Koli Hills and Namakkal in Tamil Nadu offer a variety of snacks- desi momos, khakra and even millet dosas. The Kodo variety of millet has sugar offsetting properties and has its salutary impact on mitigating diabetes. These millets have good amounts of nutritional content, flourish in dry environments though are consumed in moderate amounts owing to these being high energy foods.
Similarly, Kheer, sweet dishes and Pulao made of Chinnaur/Jeera Shankar aromatic varieties of rice and pure white Chapati's made of Sharbati Gehun (Wheat) are the foods to relish from the farms of central India. Baked maize 'Paniya Daal' - piping hot maize buns baked in Pattal leaf and served with Toor Daal -is another traditional dish to savor while travelling in the maize rich belts of Madhya Pradesh. Vidharba's native Bajre ki Roti with fresh Methi salads, accompanied with condiments such as garlic chilli chutney - are some of the most mouth-watering cuisines from the rural kitchens of the country.
Herbs and forest produce too find a special place in the kitchenettes of metropolises. Freshly brewed lemon grass or Arjun, kevati or herbal tea concoctions, organic forest honey, organic Achaar, Lauki Jams, Amla juice and other herbs and spices are some of the most commonly spotted products sold at haat, bazaars and melas organized in cities or the Mall. For the cosmetic fanatic there are the natural hibiscus flower pastes, shikakai powders, herbal mehendi or the more exotic wild turmeric face pack powder to choose from.
Additionally, the indispensable Mahua flower in addition to being collected and sold for a livelihood has its relevance on the cook stove of both the rural and the suave. Mahua Roti (dried flowers mixed with flour and sugar), halwa made of dried flowers and sesame seeds are some of the dishes which tribal population cooks during festivals.
The local flavors and aromas of recipes are stimulating to unravel if one has the willingness and of course the appetite to experiment with appealing variations. Additionally, if purchased directly from 'the indigenous manufacturers' such as Self Help Groups, farmers or local producers while touring these peripheries or from nature fair's organized in one's city- these food items have far reaching impacts than just nourishing one's salubrious being - that of enhancing the income endowments of the less privileged.The author's views expressed in the article are personal