The Modern Myth of Superfoods

The term Superfoods entered the dictionary in the early twentieth century. In the 60’s and 70’s it was frequently used in conjunction with the word “cultural “. Cultural superfoods, by definition, were those foods which were a community’s main source of calories because of which they acquired a tremendous religious, cultural, historical and mystical hold on particular societies acquiring a semi divine significance to its people.

Often these foods, generally staples, were cultivated and ingested to the exclusion of other nutritious foods and unless supplemented with other foods , led to malnutrition in the immediate population as proved by Derrick Brian Jeliffe and his wife Eleanore Patrice, experts in the field of infant and cross cultural nutrition. Thus rice in South India, Steamed Plantain (Matoke) in Buganda, Wheat bread in Europe and  Maize in Central America, having this socio religious significance, were classified as Cultural Super foods. *1

Today the usage is somewhat different.

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Finger lickin' good?


Kfc_comes_to_pune Hai hai hai! What do I see on the crossroads of Dhole Patil Road and Bund Garden Road.? You've already guessed it. A huge billboard for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It has not been greeted in Pune with the fanfare KFC received in Bangalore some years ago, as a result of which that wing had to shut down. No, no crowing of any kind here.

Nevertheless my heart quails when I see that familiar red board.

It brings to mind a particularly greasy meal in a bucket I had years ago in the U.S. The strange thing is these kinds of fast foods have a flavour that can never be erased from the taste buds of memory. It engenders almost total recall of a synthetic aftertaste even among particularly forgetful people. Like a food you once pigged out on and forever after carried the essence of it, in the back of your throat, to be brought up immediately, both literally and figuratively, when confronted with the sight or smell of that fare.

I cannot help feeling some antipathy towards a couple of well known cola drinks, the ubiquitous Mac and some fast food global brands .It isn't the notion of the all powerful MNC and the colonization of food. In fact the more choice there is for the consumer the merrier. Perhaps it is a slight fear that they might make themselves more easily available than the next player, our local Udupi joint or vada pavwala, and thus grow by default.

Children , the main target of the fast food business, might benefit by being exposed to as many flavours as possible when young, so they have a chance to the same way as they are exposed to music and sound, to pictures and paintings and film, to dance and sports and movement , to reading and ideas. A knowledge based on an exposure to variety could enhance their life and allow them to make real choices ,depending on their own educated taste. If they are dumbed down with the ever familiar from babyhood, those premixed cereals, that bottled food, ready prepared meals and T.V dinners, even the same fast food., how will they grow to be discerning?. I am not saying here that a dosa dripping in ghee is necessarily better than deep fried chicken. Just that, if this is their homogenous daily fare, they may never choose a new or healthier food, because their taste buds do not know any better.

Subtlety and complexity of taste is not what you desire when young. But it may be what you need for your survival both mentally and physically when you are older.

Actually, come to think of it, in the long run I am not particularly concerned about Pune being colonized by the Colonel. Dominos came to Pune and Dominos went. Ditto Baskin Robbins. The Puneite's natural leaning towards value for money, if not good taste, is his/her own defense!

JVP against KFC? It's a win win situation for JVP.

And I will vouch, with great relish, for the better taste.

* JVP: Joshi Vada Pav - about which more later.


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