This Friday I had the opportunity of being part of a very special dinner. Masala Bay (at Taj Land’s End, Bandra) hosted a food tasting and an interactive session with Chef Abida Rashid, who had specially cooked what could only be described as a royal feast. Hailing from Calicut, Chef Abida’s culinary expertise lies in Moplah cuisine, of north Kerala. The food she served was rich in spice, coconut and history.
The Taj aims to share these food traditions with it’s customers, and with Chef Abida’s help has tried to elevate Moplah cuisine to what is conventionally thought of as a ‘fine dining’. Though I commend the effort, I cannot but question popular notions of what fine dining really is. It didn’t sit well with me, that what should have been an Indian thali style meal, was restructured and served in multiple courses with wine as an accompaniment. Since I was eating Indian food, I was hoping for an Indian fine dining experience. Why not eat the way Indian royalty eats, with heavy thalis, ornate bartans and silver katoris? Would that not be the way to do justice to the food and culture that it comes from? The way food is eaten is as relevant to a fine dining experience as the food itself, and am strongly against such westernization Indian cuisine.
I would very willingly trade in my wine glass for a class of cool Roohafsa, Kokam sharbat or Jal Jeera, which would have eased the spices in my meal. I felt absurd trying to eat a fish Biryani with a fork. I felt like my cutlery kept getting in my way and my food quite literally turned cold in yearning for the the touch of warm hands. I am not being Nationalist, I have nothing against the poor wine, I’d gladly drink wine while eating a steak. But when I have pappadums on my plate, I think wine is out of place.