There is a saying in Hindi that highlights the seemingly endless attraction of something that constitutes a novelty.
An object that is hitherto unknown to us when compared with something we are well familiar with will always seem more attractive. This certain Hindi Muhaavra compares the appeal of a murgi (chicken curry) made at home and decrees that it is no more appealing than a basic daal (lentils, possibly from an outside shop) as even a rich lavish preparation can lose much if it doesn’t command novelty.
We all learnt this as kids and I needn’t really have expounded this in one entire introductory paragraph. But the vino in me recently came across this and a whole new thought emerged within. This was a rather quirky tongue-in-cheek answer to that ever-prevailing question: why don’t we pair wines with home-cooked Indian food? Here are a few reasons why and also, wherever possible, an attempt at enlivening things a bit.
1. Home food is simple. We do not eat tandoori for every meal and a kebab is another word for artery-choking health time bomb which we allow ourselves only once in a while. The average lunch or dinner at home is nothing more than a few basic dishes, including reheated leftovers and the most judiciously measured amounts of salt and butter. Low salt food might keep blood pressure at bay but it also keeps the flavour rather muted. This doesn’t excite and hence we don’t end up thinking of reaching out for a glass of wine. I wouldn’t ask you to add more salt or spice to your food but try and add some acidity—nimbu juice—or maybe tomatoes. They help bring in a pairing element to most dishes.
2. Home meals are quick. Nothing is more efficient sometimes than an Indian meal. In a country that is founded on family values and interactions, this is perhaps the saddest thing. The holistic principle of consuming meals in silence is a thing of the past. We needn’t be so monastic in our repasts and we should indeed make the time to be social. Wine is a social beverage, the kind that anoints conversations. No chit-chat, no vino.
3. Indian meals are a one-shot affair. We don’t eat in courses. We attack it all in one go and this further fuels the speed problem mentioned above. To try and change the way we eat can be useful. It doesn’t mean we eat lentils and vegetables separately but we could try and work in a starter before the main meal. Even an innocuous salad is good. It helps create a spacer, which can help accommodate some wine. This also guards against over-eating.
4. Home food is too incongruent for wine. This is a mythical argument in that the base for such only resides in our minds. All we need to do is find a way to infuse a sense of novelty into our daily rations and all of a sudden, a meal is more than about subsistence.
5. Lastly, why just wines? Nowhere does it say that we can’t try other beverages. From lassi to aerated beverages, jal-zeera to nimbu paani, wine to single malts to beer and even sake, all is fair game and can claim equal stake to Indian cuisine in the pairing business. Just like there is no single entity as Indian cuisine, why should we consider a solo product for pairing possibilities?
Indian food may not appear wine-friendly at first and home-cooked Indian food even more so, but that is not entirely true. The best of pairings happen in the mind—that most pristine of taste laboratories there ever was—so if we set our minds to it, we can always find something that would sit well besides our platter.