Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bush says Indians are overeating at the buffet...



As regular readers of this blog know, I really don't do political posts and hardly consider myself an expert in that field. I do my little filmi song thing and let the talking heads of the blogosphere write about Obama/Hillary/McCain. But the other day in Missouri, our soon to be ex-President mentioned India's growing middle class and said "when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up." Kya? Americans consume ~3770 calories a day which is roughly twice of what an average Indian does. They are also the largest per capita consumers in any major economy of beef, the most energy-intensive common food source, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And finally the United States and Canada top the world in oil consumption per person, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. I am a proud citizen of these United States but my heart belongs here as well as the land of my birth, India. To see the people there enjoying the fruits of a booming economy is a cause of great pride for me. But it seems to others a fearsome thing that threatens their 'all you can eat' mentality...



Contrast the above opinion with the brilliant musings of Shashi Tharoor - former UN Undersecretary General, author, journalist and fellow of the USC center on Public Diplomacy (something our Commander-In-Chief is sorely lacking in). He made some comments recently regarding Indians & food as well while delivering a speech at Emory University. He said that the Indian ideals of pluralism, ethnic, cultural and religious identities could all exist under the umbrella of the new India. "India can be thought of as a thali. A large stainless steel plate with a number of distinctive dishes served in different bowls. It won't spill over to the next. Each is distinct from the next but ultimately it's part of the same thing. They combine on your palate to make a satisfying meal". Bravo and Vaah Vaah to you sir!



And to wrap up these varied musings on Indians & food I leave you with some inspiring words from the first Indian-American governor of my home state of Louisiana, the honorable Bobby Jindal (nee Piyush but he claims to have picked the name Bobby after watching 'The Brady Bunch' as a child). Our local paper, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, did a write up of the dearth of Indian restaurants in a city that many tourists and locals consider one of the finest restaurant cities in the world. I was hoping that Jindal would show at least some of the Indian side of him that he has pretty much shunned since his college days (he has not visited India in years and supposedly asked Indians who came to a fund-raiser for him NOT to wear saris or kurtas). The good governor's answer when asked what his favorite Indian restaurant was in New Orleans? McDonald's. Really.



To me there is nothing better than a good Indian meal although I am probably a bit biased (above is a picture from Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur). So to that end the song for today is a request for anyone of Indian descent or even just Indian at heart to return to India for the first or hundreth time - because weary traveler, India misses you and you know you miss her as well. From Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Ghar Aaja Pardesi...

14 comments:

Beth said...

(Do you mean that the average American consumes twice what the average Indian does?)

I can't wait til he's gone. Blargh. He is embarrassing on pretty much every front. I heard a great interview with Al Gore a few years ago, and the reporter (from NPR) was trying to get him to say something bad about W, and what he said, quite diplomatically but also bang-on, was that W just does not ask questions, that he shows a shocking lack of curiosity. The immediate result of which, of course, is that he doesn't really know anything, or if he has a fact, he has no context for it.

Sigh.

As for Jindal, huh?

Ankur said...

I read the latter part about Jindal and couldn't help but comment. It's a good thing i voted for him because he's a brilliant individual that is a very good politician. Notice none of the above references include "indian." In anycase, your imploring a return to the motherland....definitely struck a cord...and reminded me of this song that give me goosebumps just thinking about it....from one of my favorite indian playback singers of ALL time (you ardy know you and i share the affinity for Kishoreda...but there's room for more than one...).. Pankaj Udhas....

http://youtube.com/watch?v=sTUZXITdS9A

Rupa said...

About Jindal I always wonder why he resents Indians? It is like you are disrespectful to yourself. Bush always amuses me,no more wonder.

Sanket Vyas said...

Beth - thanks for catching that, I really need a copy editor ;) Great quote by Gore and good observation on Bush. I think the cartoon (taken from a Mexican newspaper) sums it up beautifully. Oliver Stone just started filming a movie in Shreveport on Dubya that will be released just in time for the election.

Ankur (and Beth) - Regarding Jindal, he is a brilliant mind and does have the potential to bring this state up from it's perennial 48th position (thank god for Mississippi and West Virginia) in most everything. He just baffles me in regards to his going out of his way to deny his Indian heritage. I know that part of that was done for the election but imho now would be the perfect time to at least talk about how immigrants have strengthened America and enriched it her as well. For some REALLY weird stuff on him check out this link:

http://indiequill.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/the-devil-mr-jindal/

Richard S. said...

Hmm... Well, we've all known for sometime now that G.W. Bush is an idiot and I have nothing new to add to that perception, so I'll comment on another part of your post.

My heritage is far from Indian, but I've been eating a lot of Indian food ever since I was a little kid (I grew up in New York City, and now I live near the U.S. Indian food capital, Jackson Heights)... And I have always thought it was the best food in the world. I never thought for a minute that people could actually choose McDonalds if they had enough of a chance to eat Indian food.

But a couple of months ago, I saw Chakde India, the film about an Indian women's hockey team... And at one point in the movie, the coach (played by the ubiquitous SRK) takes the girls for lunch at McDonalds! And I said to myself, "Do people really do that in India? Go to McDonalds? Even though they live in India? Are they crazy?"

Sanket Vyas said...

Richard - I guess no matter where you are, different is always, well different. We actually went to McDonalds while in India just to try the McAloo Tikki, Paneer Salsa Wrap & Pizza McPuff and just loved our meal. So I guess we ate McDonalds but ate Indian food there so it evened out ;) We got a lesson in economics there as well when we bought a McPuff for a pair of little beggar children (the older one grabbed it and ran away). The mom came and told us she appreciated that we thought about her kids but that next time to just give money because the same amount of money could have fed them for 2 days!

Jackson Heights, my favorite place to come visit when I come to New York. Have you ever gotten the fresh sugarcane juice on the street? Pure heaven. Also, most Indian restaurants serve Punjabi food which is excellent. But if you get a chance try some Gujarati food (from the state of Gujarat). It is much simpler & vegeterian mostly - but delicious nonetheless. That's where you get the 'thaali' that Shashi Tharoor was talking about. Bon Appetit!

Richard S. said...

Hi, Sanket. I do have some "inside" knowledge about Punjabi food because of a Pakistani woman whom I was close to about a decade ago. (In fact, I just mentioned her in comments on another blog. I'm not sure if she'd welcome so much free publicity, but she was/is an excellent cook who also doubled my spice tolerance, so when the subject of Indian food comes up...)

I don't think I've had Gujarati food, at least not while knowing it was Gujarati food. I'll have to look for it.

There are other kinds of Indian food around here - for instance, a couple of dosa places. I've been thinking that I should eat more dosas, considering my increasing affinity for old Tamil movies.

But I'll probably continue eating Punjabi food for the meat.

It didn't occur to me that McDonalds would serve Indian food in India. Of course.

I haven't tried the sugar cane water. In the street, I often head for the Halal food wagons. I've been going to these more often than the restaurants since I lost my regular job. (And by the way, if you ever decide that you want to pay for a copy editor, I'll send you my resume. :)... ) These wagons are relatively cheap, even if the cost of their chicken or lamb with rice might be enough to feed a little beggar child on the Subcontinent for a week.

Daddy's Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daddy's Girl said...

Really interesting thoughts on food and India. I'm stunned by Bobby Jindal's remark. Weird. To each his own, I guess. Lovely picture of you and Nilong - I took one look and squealed 'Chokhi Dhani' (thereby startling everyone around me)! Clearly, I need to re-visit India soon....

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Its amazing that heads of state can say crap like this and get away with it. http://nomorecurry.blogspot.com/2008/05/who-eats-so-much-rice-that-condy-doesnt.html

On a totally unrelated note- Wasnt chokhi dhani fun? did u ride the camels? :) and i can go go for that gatte ki sabzi one more time :)

Sanket Vyas said...

Richard - Yes, Punjabi food rocks and is done well by folks on both sides of the border. Alot of people (Desis included) realize that Punjab was actually split into 2 during partition and that the state exists in both India & Pakistan (that is what the 'P' is for in Pakistan I think). Anyway, they are a proud people and the region is known in both countries for good food, great music, intellectuals and a language that is just fun to listen to and more fun to speak!

Yes, do search out some Gujarati food and although you won't get the meat - the variety of the food will more than compensate. That way you will enjoy Indian food across all of India as Gujarat is geographically kind of centrally. Of course NOTHING beats the street vendors there (or in India) for tasty/cheap food. Seek out the sugarcane juice on a hot summer day with the spices mixed in - you won't be dissapointed. And if I get a budget to this blog I will definitely take you up on your offer as a copy editor ;)

DG - thanks for the kind words. Bobby is just one strange guy, brilliant (so they say) but a politician to the core. Not judging the guy at all but he knows the game he has to play to win and for better or worse - it's to downplay his Indian heritage at every step of the way.

Shweta - I did see that comment that Rice made but completely forgot to mention it, thanks for the link! And yes to all 3 of your questions. A friend of ours had his wedding reception there and that is how we found out about the place. The camels were not there the night we went but I did brave the pani puri and much to my wife's amazement I did not pay the price ;) They have absolutely no shame when it comes to ghee there - just ladel it into your dish which just typifies the Rajasthani hospitality that they are known for.

memsaab said...

Bush=moron
ghee=heaven

Sanket Vyas said...

Memsaab - I pity the poor vegans for they cannot indulge in the nirvana that is ghee ;)

Amit said...

Actually, Bobby Jindal's decision to convert to Xtianity and downplay his Indian roots is the only strategy to *win* an election in a state that is quite conservative and religious. Living in our liberal pockets, we forget that more than 50% of Americans voted for Bush in 2004. That's the reality. And India is associated with Hinduism, which in the eyes of many conservative Xtians, is nothing but heathen practice. It's a similar reason why no candidate can declare her/himself as an atheist and still expect to win.