The rise of ubiquitous food joints

Nilratan Halder | Published: July 27, 2018 20:52:21

A sort of quiet kitchen revolution is on in this capital right at this moment. Just imagine the feeling when one day someone discovers to his/her utter surprise that a restaurant -not gimmicky but serving Italian, Mexican and South Indian dishes -has sprung up next door or in the neighbourhood within a couple of minutes' walk. In localities where not even a decent traditional eatery was found, the latest type has been proliferating as if to turn the capital into a city of outdoor eating joints. They are quite busy too serving their customers.

What is particularly noticeable is that young people are undertaking such ventures. They do not recruit many employees, mostly the organisers themselves are manager-cum-attendants. Their courtesy is their strong point and they maintain cordial relations with their customers who mostly happen to be people of the neighbourhood. They could not help being courteous, for their business must flourish or not depending on the way they treat their customers. For these eateries are not on main roads but in a quiet corner of the locality.

It is amazing that so many outlets are serving pizzas, pastas, chop sui, shwarma, nachos and a variety of Mexican and Italian dishes. This means they have to hire cooks who have mastered the art of preparing such foreign dishes. Since there is no complaint against such foods, it has to be assumed that the cooks are at least moderately skilled in food preparation. But where have they learnt? In the late 80s of the past century, hotel and catering training centres were mushrooming and a good number of students, having learnt their trade there, went overseas with employment.

These days, however, no such advertisement is noticeable. Cooking the choice foreign dishes requires training and apprenticeship under veteran cooks. Then how the newly opened restaurants in different localities of the city could manage their cooks should be an interesting subject. Qualities of such foods certainly vary but none of those can be dismissed outright as something unworthy of the name they bear.

This is exactly where a revolution has indeed taken place. Instead of frequenting traditional restaurants, people are visiting such outlets because of the quiet and peaceful environment there. No one talks loudly there. Of course there are occasional ripples of laughter when teenagers sit around a table in a group. Young couples are the quietest lot who speak in barely audible tones.

The arrangement of table, chair, air-conditioning within and lighting are all agreeable. Here is an atmosphere where a modest person has no reason to feel hesitant to visit. Some visit there in order to introduce themselves to foods they have never tasted. Others go there because they love certain kind of foods. Then there are others who go there to celebrate an occasion.

All this, however, cannot camouflage the fact that a slow but sure change in the taste buds and therefore food habits of the Bangalees is taking place. Will the day come when the young generation might be abhorring rice and fish? Already a few have started doing it. They no longer will consider their traditional fish and rice their favourite foods. At best they can show some preference for polao, biriani but not for plain rice, dal and fish curries. Some eat fish but only selectively.

Here is a new breed that is not only forgetting their foods but also their culture and roots. They would rather follow Sylvester Stalone rather than Satyajit, rock instead of Rabindra Sangeet and the likes. The restaurants are serving only foreign foods but they are also serving something more than they are aware of. Many of these eateries may even pose to be a threat to domestic kitchen. Already a segment can afford visiting such outlets on a regular basis. When income of most other people also rises, the concept of domestic kitchen may be a thing of the past as it is in some of the cities in the West.        

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