I am a fair few moons late in reporting the phenomenon of rainbow foods, but India being India, it is only now that the fad is beginning to surface here. Or shall I say, prance through on a multi-hued arc that stretches across the sky unto infinity.
For that is the trend of rainbow foods, so colourful and so psychedelic that one needs to stop and consider whether the food is actually presented in all those myriad hues or are we just experiencing the most unprecedented sugar of our lives!
The essence of rainbow foods, at its very core, is to make food visually a treat. The plethora of colours that greet the viewer are all enhanced and executed to encourage hunger. From donuts to cakes, tarts to iced teas, even a savoury pizza—anything can be spruced up a la unicorn food.
So when did the world gastronomy decide to go technicolour? Are there any advantages to eating so colourfully? To answer both the questions simply, ‘a few years ago’ and ‘no’. The trend began mostly with sweet drinks and desserts using coloured confectionary and cream coloured with food-grade pigments. From there on, it has grown rampant and unchecked.
Last I heard, there were chilly cheese toasts and cheeseburgers being served up with all the shades of a rainbow. The initial reception was far from positive or even lukewarm; people outrightly rejected it, calling it a queer and whimsically fantastical notion to nurture with no redeeming virtues attached at all. Come to think of it, that’s possibly the same set of people who held precisely the same beliefs and response towards the other Rainbow (Gay Pride) movement.
I wouldn’t have minded so much, had there been some sense to the colour palate. A rainbow double-decker club sandwich holds no sway over me if the chicken is pink, the mayonnaise red and the bread, violet. I do eat with my eyes, but to use colours so blatantly is akin to staring into a solar eclipse—irrevocably hurtful!
However, it does further prove the adage that ‘we eat with our eyes first’. The first proponents of molecular gastronomy, the ones long before the farzis of this world bastardised it, were playing with exactly that: making food appear one way and yet taste entirely another. This throw off of the senses was what maintained the marvel, pumped the prestige of a meal. Rainbow food may not be as complex a form of art, but it is art nonetheless. You may even call it bathroom stall graffiti, but you can’t deny it the artiness.
So, the next time you come across a food array that looks more varied than a Pantone shade card booklet, don’t shy away. Go ahead and indulge. For me, the cheeseburgers always tasted less meatier in pink and fluorescent what-nots. Your turn to share exactly which colour wreaks what organoleptic havoc on
The writer is a sommelier.