No place here for fruits of originality - The New Indian Express

No place here for fruits of originality

Published: 19th January 2013 11:33 PM

Last Updated: 21st January 2014 12:25 PM

“Amma, what’s got into you? Why are you buying Chinese carrots and California guavas and Australian grapes? What’s wrong with the fruits and veggies that we’ve had all our lives?”

“Don’t you like them, moley? I bought them for you. The fruit-seller said, forget about America, even people in Delhi eat only these nowadays. And little Nandu, he’s come to visit his grandparents after two years. I don’t want him to feel deprived or see us as villagers.”

“Are you mad, Amma? No one sees you as a villager. Plus, both Nandu and I want to eat the local goodies. That’s what we dream of at home. Back in Chicago, we keep talking about the taste of the vegetables we get in India. They may not look as ‘pretty’ as the stuff we get in the US supermarkets, but believe me they taste divine. Anyway, tell me, where are you getting these things? Aren’t they expensive?”

“They’re available everywhere now, moley. Even the cart-wallahs sell apples and grapes with foreign stickers. Yes, they are more expensive than the local produce but they are also larger in size and look healthier.”

“Amma, who says they are healthier? How do you think these apples have been transported here? They must have been kept in cold storage for weeks and offer a lot less nutrition value than your local fruits. These fat grapes may look juicier but the desi ones are more nutritious, believe me. Not only have they been pumped with steroids, they are also much fresher and tastier. Expensive doesn’t mean good; these fruits are expensive because of the transportation costs involved.”

“You sound just like your Appa, moley. Always lecturing and scolding. I wasn’t buying these things for myself; they’re much too expensive. I bought them for Nandu and you. Now that I know you don’t like them, I won’t. In any case, your Appa and I are, what do you call it, ‘locavores’.”

“Amma! You’re awesome. How do you know that word? Do you know what it means?”

“Of course. Just because we live in a small town doesn’t mean we’re ignorant. I know ‘locavores’ are environment-conscious people in the West who eat as much locally grown produce as possible, because they’re looking to support the farmers in their area. The concept may be novel abroad but we’ve always done just that. I believe Indians are the most genuine ‘locavores’ because they don’t just eat food from a restricted area; they also eat seasonally appropriate food. We don’t eat watermelon or mangoes in winter or oranges in summer because we know that’s the wrong season for it. Why, we don’t even eat fish during the monsoon because that’s the breeding season. Of course you can say, we’re motivated by taste, not environmental concerns, but isn’t the end result the same?”

“Then why are people buying this stuff, Amma? Just as the world is committing to eating local and using a 100-km circle around their homes to guide their food choices, why are Indians embracing Japanese mushrooms and Washington apples? Especially, when they know what’s wrong?”

“Because of the novelty factor, moley. Till recently, we had no option but to eat whatever was grown locally. Now we do, so people are trying everything that comes their way. But the fad will pass, and they’ll go back to the old ways. Just wait and see.”

shampa@newindianexpress.com

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