Spice of Life: Food and drinks, the conversation starters - Hindustan Times
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Spice of Life: Food and drinks, the conversation starters

ByReema Bansal
May 29, 2023 11:51 AM IST

It’s sort of obvious, yet I cannot help, but admire how quickly food, a simple lunch or dinner, connects everyone. It’s basically a survival need, yet it does that.

My cousin from Sirhind came to visit us with his family recently. It was a lovely meeting, with all the catching-up and getting up to speed with each others’ lives. The conversation also veered into trending career choices to music to expressions about such visits having become rare and resultantly more precious, and many other things.

Food has the power to be a great unifier. (HT File)
Food has the power to be a great unifier. (HT File)

When we sat down to enjoy the lunch in company, it was sheer bliss. Everyone began passing the bowls and plates to each other, appreciating the delicious matar paneer, demanding more papad to be roasted and nibbling on salad while waiting for the next chapati/poori/rice serving, and simultaneously reliving childhood memories and sharing ups and downs of life.

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It’s sort of obvious, yet I cannot help, but admire how quickly food, a simple lunch or dinner, connects everyone. It’s basically a survival need, yet it does that.

For instance my father says that tea can be had before tea and after tea. I do not know how and where he stumbled upon this, but, indeed whilst at college, I just can’t miss my 11 am cups (both for physical and psychological reasons!). After that, if tea is being served any time, thanks to the day being an anniversary, or birthday, or it being cloudy (so on and so forth), I can’t miss that cup of tea either; for everyone will talk and laugh and share and bond over it, along with the trademark college samosa, or the delicious canteen pakore! Especially for people of fewer words like me, the level of sweetness of the tea, or spiciness of pakore, or the flavour of samosa filling provide ample conversation starts, suddenly awakening my extrovert tendencies.

However, I am not very (read “at all”) skilled at cooking. So while my colleague-turned-friends excitedly share and discuss recipes that they try at home, I can’t participate, but only dwell upon my activated salivary glands upon “hearing” of the aromas and tastes, which various dishes and their ingredients produce.

Hence, I blurted out once to them: “You are most welcome if you want/plan to bring these delicacies to college someday.”

And recently, when it was my eleven year old son’s birthday party under planning, it seemed I was more excited than him. You guessed the reason correctly. While he was super elated thinking of playing different games with his friends, I was meticulously on “menu-mode”. It’s another aspect that I actually got down to enjoying the lip-smacking delights (both sugary and savoury) only late after the celebration was over.

Here, I am also compelled to ponder over the fact that some people are a lot like salt, others like sugar, while others a mixture of both. We all know of a person or two whose value we realise when we s/he is not around – liken them to salt – their absence is felt more strongly than their presence. For those like sugar, their presence is always cherished and celebrated. Most people fall somewhere between the two, and in the realm of Psychology, we call them ambiverts – on a spectrum they are a mix of introverts and extroverts.

In any case, coming back to food, I feel that it can really attach to anyone and everyone. So, when I got my son’s birthday mithai distributed at my workplace, I suddenly got all the more connected when a benevolent co-worker reached out in the evening, saying she and those around her had taken the liberty of picking and relishing four-five pieces each. Her emoticon, which had hands covering the eyes, indicating fun-filled embarrassment, was sheer bliss for me!

reemaban@gmail.com

(The writer is a Jagadhri-based freelance contributor.)

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