In this aspirational world, there is always something better than this, somewhere better than here, especially when it comes to lifestyle. I stand witness to a lot of back and forth between traditions and technology, East and West as people try to find the optimum lifestyle formula for themselves.
Today's world, the West in particular, is increasingly influenced by vegetarianism, and with good reason. Veggies and fruits have great benefits for the body, and, as we understand now, even the mind. More than just a dietary preference, vegetarianism is a philosophy driven by the need for balance and compassion in the world. It has been a mainstay of Indian culture for centuries and it is a matter of great pride that we are the pioneers of a trend that is taking over the world and fast.
Yet, I have noticed a strange sort of feedback loop between us and the West (read "better there than here"). We are very often enamoured by concepts that have the sanction of the West, and we tend to take them at face value. In doing so, we are actually undermining our own traditions and forgetting that we are, in fact, the very inspiration of the concept of vegetarianism. When I see supermarket literature stressing on the importance of tofu and quinoa for vegetarians, I am a little scared that we might be trying to follow a Western template of vegetarianism, instead of what is very innately ours.
There is a plethora of vegetarian ingredients and preparations across India that are both nutritious and tasty. We need to dig into our culinary heritage and give it the respect and recognition it deserves. I also strongly believe that with time we will reach a "meat and vegetable equilibrium" here, and that this equilibrium will come from our own heritage. Whether it's the pork and fiddlehead fern curry of Assam or the mangsho diye bandhakopi (cabbage with meat) from Bengal or unique pairings like karela gosht and shalgam gosht (meat with bitter gourd and turnip respectively) from the Mughlai repertoire, our traditional veggie-meat pairings across the country reflect that we have always been vegetable eaters (majorly) converted into meat consumers. This, I believe, will be the balanced food of times to come. It's heartwarming to see that lot of effort is being made to save these traditional recipes across the country, especially on the electronic media and social media platforms.
Here's a humble request to all. On this day when the world is pledging to go vegetarian, Indians should pledge to just go often to our vegetable mandis (yes the loud, bargain-loving spaces we all have a love-hate relationship with) and buy plenty of local and seasonal veggies. Let us ask our moms and grandmoms, neighbours and sabzi waalas (or even the internet) for traditional recipes that they have cooked or seen being cooked. Let's cook them too and then record them. They will be the food of tomorrow... trust me on this one.
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