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David Ranz: An American gastroplomat

Mumbai-based US Consul General David J Ranz is shaping delicious chapters in Indo-American food diplomacy, through his love for all that is Indian    
 

Published: 12th December 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2021 05:23 PM   |  A+A-

Indo-American food diplomacy

Indo-American food diplomacy

Express News Service

Food spells memories, culture, history,” says the diplomat as we settle into a conversation. Looking cool and comfortable in a lilac kurta, the US Consul General in Mumbai, David J Ranz, is all set to wow the large city’s epicureans through his masterclass with celebrity chef Rakhee Vaswani at her Palate Culinary Studio and Academy in Bandra. This is his third cheer in the Holiday Masterclass Series, including the Diwali special earlier, and another turkey-strapped session for Thanksgiving, that he has wrapped up with amazing aplomb, shaping desi recipes with videshi ingredients.

The Indophile vein runs strong, with Ranz celebrating the vivacity of the energising theatre of flavours that make up India. Does he cook Indian food himself? “I love creating specials in the kitchen, but haven’t been able to do justice to preparing Indian dishes myself,” he confesses with a smile. “I have made butter chicken, biryani and rogan josh though, using Indian cookbooks, and make use of ghee as well in some recipes. I have eaten Indian food outside the country earlier, but believe me, food made in India tastes like nothing else. The ingredients once specific to India are now an intrinsic part of global recipes and are used all over the world. Think cinnamon, cumin, cardamom…,” he says. Ranz confesses he always wanted to come to India. A short trip he took in 1994, when he was posted in Karachi in Pakistan in the early 1990s, took him to Gwalior, Agra and Delhi. Those five days fortified my desire to live in India. It took me almost 25 years to arrive here finally, serving in this important post, he shares.  

Ranz thrives on curries. “I am very fond of Mangalorean seafood, especially tandoori pomfret. That’s my favourite. At the gourmet restaurant Masque in Mumbai, my pick is the classic lamb yakhni. It is simply unbeatable, and just thinking and talking of this dish makes me want to taste it all the time,” he confesses. Full marks, 

Chef Prateek Sadhu; the Kashmiri mutton special here truly stands unrivalled. Dining at restaurants is fine, but full marks to Ranz too for taking to the ubiquitous street food specials with decided relish. “I enjoy eating the vada pav, those roasted green chillies and fiery red masala work brilliantly. Second favourite is misal pav,” he smiles. If you thought the street food finds its way to his air-conditioned office, think again. “Vada pao tastes delicious when eaten on the spot, hot. Ask my security, often when my wife and I are driving I pull up at a vada pao, paani puri, sev puri vendor to eat. Street specials in Mumbai are made fresh. The risk factor is very low. I have never had any problem,” shares Ranz.  

Childhood food memories run deep for him. His grandmother was from Russia. “Soups were her forte and when she passed on, my eulogy was all about soups. Her matzah ball soup was a staple at the Jewish Passover. I grew up in New York, and was exposed to diverse, multicultural food. People often joke that Chinese cuisine is as Jewish as our own food, but the truth is for many years earlier, only Chinese eateries were open on Christmas, and that’s how the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas came about,” says Ranz.  

Back to the Holiday Masterclass Series. He has been busy shaping gluten-free crackers, pistachio and almond truffle, blue berry nankhatai, and cranberry barfi using American produce in nuts and berries. The series, in collaboration with (Tante Marie and Le Cordon Bleu-trained) Chef Rakhee Vaswani, forms a pivotal part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) #TasteOfAmerica campaign through its Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) office in Mumbai, to popularise premium US foods and beverages. “It shows how US ingredients can play a part in holidays from both our countries, such as Diwali, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Ranz is the good voice for shaping delicious chapters in food diplomacy. 



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