Monday, May 12, 2014

Life is never, ever, about the ratatouille

"Because this is evening, I suppose I should ask for tickets to the Dinner Box" I said as my friend bought the tickets to The Lunchbox.

I imagine I will be punning awful groaners even when on my death bed.  "If I am dying when sitting on a recliner, why is it my death bed?" will be the kind of horrendous jokes I would tell as I exit.

Whether it is the bed or the chair, and as long as I am conscious, and as long as the neurons keep firing, I know what will fill my mind--the warm memories of experiences with people.  As Roberto observed during the day tour that in Costa Rica, "when you are lying nearing your death, you cannot take your car or house or clothes.  You have only your memories with you when dying."

Memories.  Especially of people who cared for me.  People with whom I broke that proverbial bread. The people who fed me.  With anybody who is close to me, there is always at least one unique and special food memory, even if that person couldn't care about food.

Thinking about food and the people who fed me is not anything new in this blog.  Because I blog about food, and because of the growing collection of food-related photos on my Facebook page, some, mistakenly, conclude that I am a foodaholic. Yes, it is about food. But, it is more than merely being about food. It is all about memories.  Not memories of the taste of the rasgolla or the vadai or the erisheri, but about the life that it was all about. About the people.

There is a wonderful saying in the old country, உப்பிட்டவரை உள்ளளவும் நினை.  In its literal meaning, well, we need to remember forever those who fed us salt.  But, of course, it is not really about the salt itself. It is about the people who provided the food that we eat in order to sustain ourselves, and that food becomes palatable only with the appropriate amount of salt.  But then it is not even about the salt nor the food itself--it is yet another statement on what it means to be human.

The Lunchbox is a movie that is not really about the lunch. Nor is is about the "dabbawallahs" whose highly efficient and reliable system was studied by a professor at the prestigious Harvard Business School.  The Lunchbox is about the human condition.  Men and women trying to make sense of their existence.

We create and share experiences through food. As we get older, we even relive experiences through food. Like Anton Ego and his ratatouille, we too realize that a cheesecake is more than a mere cheesecake.

7 comments:

Ramesh said...

This post has passed me over completely. Not a surprise.

"We create and share experiences through food. As we get older, we even relive experiences through food" - Speak for yourself :)

Sriram Khé said...

So ... here is an article that will then appeal to you and your food-challenged kind ;)
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/05/12/140512fa_fact_widdicombe?currentPage=all
Yep, from the New Yorker ...

Anne in Salem said...

Absolutely right! Food is inextricably connected to memories - Mom and Dad's dinner parties at which my siblings and I learned to have adult conversations and eat unfamiliar foods without complaint, celebratory dinners for religious or life or educational milestones, etc. But it is not just the food but also the experiences that make these memories precious - funny stories and family history shared, new friends joining the circle, memories of other meals. Even the dishes that bombed create future happy and funny memories. FYI swapping baking soda for baking powder creates awful biscuits.

If I see an elaborately decorated cookie, I think of my grandmother who no longer has the stamina to make the cookies so we make them for her. If I find fried perch, I think of my mother and Lenten Friday dinners. The list is endless.

Preparing a meal takes time and thought and care. Sharing that meal allows the cook to show his/her lucky recipients the fondness, respect or esteem felt for them. It is giving from the heart.

Sriram Khé said...

Hey Ramesh, you see from Anne's comment that it is YOU who are off? ;) You buy up all the soylent and take care of your calories, while the rest of us go about baking brownies and cheesecakes and the memories!!!

At the same time, Anne, I think we ought to recognize the growing trend of people using their kitchens less and less. Food-memories are also, it seems, on their way to becoming quaint practices of the past, as many other traditions have become :(

Anne in Salem said...

Use the kitchen less and less, but the kitchens in new homes are fancier and better equipped than the kitchens we grew up with that churned out multi-course Sunday dinners and meals every night of the week. Now the kitchen is the most expensive prepared food reheater ever bought!!

Let us not despair that our children will not continue to share fabulous meals and memories with family and friends. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back . . .

Shachi said...

Cannot agree more with you. Food plays a central role in my life too. I love my job as a memory architect, but when I step into the kitchen to make meals, I feel SO alive. And breaking bread together makes the best memories!

Sriram Khé said...

Really, Shachi? Your official title is "memory architect"??? And at home you are again a "memory architect"??? How cool!

Yes, Anne, in any part of the world, grandmothers had fewer gadgets in their kitchens than what we now have. And more expensive the kitchens now are. To think that it is pretty much the microwave that gets used ...

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