Searching for the “Perfect” ingredient

The luscious green leaf of spinach, the red caresses of a strawberry, the droplet of water on the corn, paints a picture, doesn’t it? It is generic to any cooking show, Instagram profile, cook books etc created to hoard public interested in food (and many times photography). The cyber culture has created a food social culture. The old days are gone when enjoying what you eat was the most important part of being a food lover/addict/glutton. The present cyber culture has surpassed banal humanly acts of just eating. It has made pathways to photography, imported ingredients, Instragram-ed food pictures, expensive restaurants etc.

There is lack of knowledge at least within the ‘aam-admi’ (yes a generalisation), that good (read interesting) food can be cooked by the population which goes to office, sends their children to school and comes back tired like a beaten donkey. The fancy celebrity chefs are not lying when they say you are the chef in your kitchen. We barely come to understand how good food is made. And this is not the ones priced at Rs 500 (or even more) a portion in a fancy restaurant in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore. The good food is mostly about the character you want to put in it. No, I am not talking about putting your tired post office heart and soul to it for which this blog might increase its quality of being pretentious. I am talking about characters of the place you live in. The local ingredients, the ones you might not even look at if you are not a ‘local’.

Ingredients do make an important aspect of whatever goes into a meal. Many of us know that. But the perfect ingredient is not getting wine from France, or Kobe beef from Japan. It is getting the best of the local produce. The ones which are accessible and most of the times affordable. But what about ingredients which are not found locally or nationally? There is a deduction process I follow

·Decide on what you want to make. Be specific. Don’t think standing in the middle of a crowded supermarket aisle. We are the generation who think more about food then we think about work ( So even if you are trying out something new you should decide on the basic ingredients you would need. You main protein, the supplementary carbohydrate, the side of fruits/veges and the condiments/spices. It makes you think better and cleaner. Spend less as well.

·If you are unsure of availability of specific ingredients to cook a dish adjust it to the local flavour. For example; when in the Konkan region cook the fish in Cocum, when in the north east cook it in fermented bamboo shoot. This can enable you to identify with a place you are in more and engage in the local culture. Also the type of fish/protein you chose can also be dependent on your location.

·If there are ingredients you are unaware of Google it. This was a boon for our generation. The generation who has lost the habit to spell correctly thanks to search engines but it still is an unavoidable part of our lives. If the ingredients are specifically grown in a specific location try and find an alternative local ingredient. It might not taste the same but you are then responsible for making it special to the place you currently live in.

·If there are ingredients like olives etc you are not willing to alternate there are always Indian companies which have ventured into importing/ marketing these products/produce in the country.

·Similar to me if you are in a smaller city, online purchase of specific ingredients can be a boon.

Finding the perfect ingredient is definitely not about how it will look (in a photograph from the smart phone). Some of the best ingredients are not the best picture perfect Instagram-able social media packages. Go a little beyond “looks”. Taste things produced locally and put them in your diet.

The wholesomeness of a meal can only be brought out through a little adventure. Go out explore the local wilderness of the culinary world.

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