Thursday 26 July 2012

A westerner's attempt to entertain Indians

I briefly wanted to mention food in a social context in India and how organising a food related gathering seems to be a complete minefield for an inexperienced westerner such as myself.

(If you want photos...sorry look away now! I am off to Goa this afternoon so tune back in on Monday when I will post the pictures)

There have been a few situations recently when I have been feeling terribly sociable and have said to Mr Jules..."so, shall we invite Mr & Mrs X and Mr & Mrs Y for dinner (or out to dinner)?"...  "Oh no I don't think that would be a good idea darling, Mr & Mrs X are Catholic and Mr & Mrs Y are Sindhi, I don't think they will have anything in common".  Then he suggests to me "well what about Person A and Person B, I think they'd really get on?  How about next Saturday night, we could take them to Sanchos.".  I say "Oh no I don't think that's a good idea, Person A is such and such caste and Person B is such and such caste.  They may feel uncomfortable with each other".  As a last ditch attempt I say, "well we could try couple Z, I would really like to spend some time with them, how about inviting them to the Sunday lunch buffet at the Marriot?"... "Oh no dear, we can't do that, they are fasting for a month." ....Well that's how ridiculous it is!

So we leave it.

Last week I told Mr Jules that I needed to go to Theobroma (a nice French style bakery in our area) so that I could pick up a chocolate mousse cake to take into work. I know how my colleagues absolutely adore western style chocolate.  So we get there and we are queuing up and I am pointing out the chocolate mousse cake I am thinking of to Mr Jules and then he says "do you know if they all eat eggs?"  I said "what do you mean, do they all eat eggs?"...well it turns out that for certain religions, on certain days, eggs or foods containing eggs are banned.  Aaaaaghhh!  That would also explain why Theobrama are selling eggless chocolate brownies - so I pick up six of those and six regular brownies.  Job done.  Turns out at the office the next day, five of the girls are not eating egg products because it is a Monday.  Well done Mr Jules.

I have also noticed that on the odd occasion when the girls in my office don't bring in their customary tiffin (kind of cooked packed lunches), ordering in a takeaway becomes an absolute farce.  I have honestly witnessed a decision making process that has taken over an hour .."ooooh let's order in pizza!!", delighted squeals from everyone.  "OK let's get the menu, what shall we go for?" 

Colleague number 1, "I can't eat ham!" (a Muslim - doesn't eat pork)
Colleague number 2, "I can't eat the Meat Feast!" (a vegetarian Hindi - does not eat beef)
Colleague number 3, "I don't like cheese, it's got egg in it!" (oh my god)
Colleague number 4, "Pepperoni is so bland, where is the chicken madras option?"
Colleague number 5, "I'm fasting, I'll have a cup of water!"
Colleague number 6, "I will only eat this pizza if it's deep fried in ghee! (OK I made that bit up)

And so it goes on.  I think we ended up with cheese and mushroom pizza for the vegetarians (when it was established that cheese does not in fact contain egg) and a ham and pepper pizza for the 'non-veg' of us.

When I went to book some flights recently, I saw the food choices that have to be made available on any one Air India flight:  Quote "Despite its unparallel dietary range, there’s something mystical and intrinsic about all Indian food: the reverence and thoughtfulness with which it is prepared"  What all of the following is prepared with such thought and mysticism?  Surely impossible!

  • Asiatic Veg/ Indian Veg Meal
  • Baby Meal/ Infant Food
  • Bland Meal/ Ulcer Diet/ Low Fiber Meal
  • Child Meal Lightly Spiced, Nutritionally Balanced
  • Diabetic Meal
  • Fruit Platter
  • Gluten Free Meal
  • Gujarati Meal-Veg Meal including Dhokla/ Patra
  • High Fiber Meal
  • Hindu Meal
  • Japanese Meal...Only on AI306
  • Kosher Meal
  • Low Protein Meal
  • Low Sodium, Unsalted Meals
  • Moslem Meal
  • Lactose Free Meal
  • Oriental Meal
  • Low Purin Acid Meal
  • Raw Veg Meal
  • Seafood Meal
  • Vegetarian Meal
  • Veg Meal (May contain Egg, Dairy Products) Low Sodium, Unsalted Meals

I ended up choosing my friend and I Hindu meals (vegetarian) as it seemed the simplest and safest option.  Should be interesting.

Getting back to dinner.  I suggested to Mr Jules "I would love to invite group Z around for and informal buffet style dinner".  Oh no that's going to be really difficult he says.  Person C doesn't eat beef and will be offended if we do.  He's Hindi.  Person D only eats vegetables that don't have feelings (hahahaha), she is Jain**.  Person E only eats products with eggs in them Tuesday to Thursday, Person F may be off the list as it is Parsi fasting month and I am not sure what they can eat.  And none of them drink alcohol.  Oh and they would all prefer to eat Chinese food.  Indians don't eat Indian food when they eat out.

OK I bloody give up it's just you and me then Mr Jules.

**the Jain religion bars jains from eating any vegetable that involves digging it from the ground. This rule, therefore, excludes potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, peanuts, raddish etc. from Jain diet.

PS:  Apologies if I have got the facts wrong about who eats what, clearly I find the whole thing confusing and 'mystifying'!!

An array of Indian foods


  1. 'Hindu Meal' is not vegetarian:
    Hindu Meal (HNML) - This meal is available for members of the Hindu community who are not strictly vegetarian and eat meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products. It does NOT contain beef.

    Vegetarian Meal (VGML) - Also known as Vegan, this meal is totally free of any animal products or by-products such as eggs or dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables and fresh fruit. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish, or animal products or by-products.

    Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal (VLML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal that may also contain eggs and dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, dairy products, and pulses. It does NOT contain any type of fish or meat.

    Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal (VGML) [presumably therefore vegan] that is also prepared Chinese or Oriental-style.

    Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVML) - This meal is available for vegetarian passengers. It is usually aromatic and spicy, and incorporates flavors from the Indian sub-continent. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables, fresh fruit and milk products. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish or eggs.

    Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML) - This meal is for members of the Jain community who are pure vegetarians. It is prepared with a selection of Indian condiments. It contains one or more of these ingredients: fresh fruit and stem vegetables that grow above the ground. It does NOT contain: animal products and by-products, and any root vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, etc.

    Raw Vegetable Meal (RVML) - This meal consists exclusively of raw vegetables and salads.

    Fruit Platter (FPML) - This meal may be ordered for dietary reasons. It may also be ordered by members of certain communities who eat only fruit while fasting. It contains one or more of these ingredients: seasonal fresh fruit.

    1. Thank you - this is very informative and helpful!



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