Not so Punjabi?
In many an essay I’ve written about my passion for food, I have almost always attributed it to my Punjabi heritage. In my family, food always brought people together despite differences of age, gender and thought. The table that could accommodate only eight people would open up to welcome twelve and more. Having never encountered an opposing thought, I subconsciously came to believe that this is a phenomenon unique to my family and unique because we are Punjabi. But this belief was not to remain forever.
Just last week, I was at a food walk in Old Delhi. While we were waiting at a roadside stall, the Sherpa and my mother were talking about how important food is in communities. She came from the school of thought that food is very and more important in Punjabis than in any other community. The Sherpa begged to differ. He said something that will stay with me forever. He said ‘all humans love food’. Surprisingly enough, I agreed with him. He was right and there was no need to go looking for evidence; it was in front of me.
There I was, at the Jama Masjid, breaking the iftaar with dates, the way The Prophet broke his fast. I have little knowledge of Islam and barely any friends who practice the faith and yet I was there to be a part of the beautiful ritual. While we were sitting in the Masjid, waiting for sunset, our tour guide told us that after people break their fasts, they share their food with those less fortunate. He said that if we were to sit there with no food, somebody or the other would feed us.
Food transcends all boundaries of religion, country, caste and creed. It is all about community. And it’s only now that I realise that perhaps this is what I love most about food. This beauty is what I want to surround myself in and maybe this is why I’m seeking a career in food. The honesty in those who cook is what touches me while watching Masterchef when I see people tell their stories and pay tributes to their loved ones through food. It’s not a coincidence that so many of them dream of opening a restaurant with their family. I have come to believe that that is what food is about, about sharing it with people you love.
I remember something Matt Preston said just the other day and I think it would be a fitting ending to this love letter I seem to be writing to food. He said ‘food is meant to replenish not only the stomach, but also the soul’.