Friday, November 13, 2009

Food Wars

Remember the time when you saw guys at work order in the most delicious-looking keema (or whatever) for lunch? And you with your dabba of sad roti, sabzi & dal found yourself salivating all over? And the next day you ordered the same keema, only it didn’t taste so delicious anymore. It tasted just about OK and was floating in oil (or dalda if you please), so you felt stuffed & bloated until hours later.

Yup, today is that day! So while we’re discussing delicious keema, I want to discuss a food-related attitude that stems essentially from the cultural difference between the East & the West. Well, it stretches to other aspects of life as well but let’s limit our discussion to food here.

You know what cultural difference I’m talking about?

Individualism vs Collectivism. West vs East. Have your keema mostly by yourself vs share it with everyone around & get only a bite to eat yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not selfish. The only food items I’m possessive about are brownies & cheesecakes. I’ll even share my chocolate with you! But if I order something for myself, I like to get to eat the most of it unless I went in with the understanding that I’ll be splitting it with someone.

I get bugged when you’re expected to share everything you're eating with people at work. If you don’t, then you’re snooty, you have an attitude problem ya di ya da. Which, according to me, is just plain stupid. I’m like, “Hello, if I’ve ordered this it means I’m hungry. If you want to eat it too, go get your own!”

There’s this very collective, social mentality in India - we’re all one big happy family etc. As opposed to the West where everyone gets what they want and minds their own business (and their food). They believe in making their lives simple.

Take for example the restaurants…they’ll always ask you if you’d like to split the bill (unless they’re a very high-end, expensive restaurant where etiquette demands you not act fussy about money. And the assumption is that if you're loaded enough to dine there, you can very well foot the entire bill). So each person orders a dish, the restaurant splits the bill & everyone pays for what they ate. Unlike India where people order collectively and when it’s time to pay the bill, there’s unnecessary confusion on how much each one would need to pay, and someone or the other always feels short-changed at the end of it all because they either didn’t get their change back or they paid for more than they ate because you the bill is generally split equally, regardless of what people order. This is not an efficient system. I’m all for individualism. I’m all for eating my own food.


Mumbai Diva said...


ya. also in mumbai. there is the possibility of splitting the bill. i didn't see that in delhi. here, i suppose it's because people go out so much...rather than meeting at home.

The knife said...

Loved the post.

I used to go to the library in college to eat my lunch. And at work too have my lunch in my corner.

I love hosting people. Had friends over yesterday while or wives clubbed. Cooking for a big gang of readers tomorrow. And then have an Australian reader and blogger coming next weekendwith her family.

I digressed. Point is I don't like sharing my lunch. Just as Joey didn't like sharing his desserts.

I have heard of the sysyem of plitting bills abroad which you mentioned. very difficult here.

Serendipity said...

remember the pasta lunch which was 'Non vegeterian'!!!!

Moonshine said...

So here's what a colleague does at work.. when she gets fod from home.. knowing that everyone will share it.. she brings a lot of it to ensure that she doesnt eat less.. or if it is less by any chance,, she tells people very clearly.. i would have offered but not as it is not enough for me!!! Extremely effective i must say!!! :)

So you could 2 things - take whatever you need to on your plate.. and tell the rest that they can eat whats left in the dabba...

OR when ordering you could ask people if they want to order it.. if not tell them loudly that they are not getting any from you!!!! And then its ok not to share!!! Problem usually is when you are eating and person takes a bite you just cant refuse.. so do it earlier.. before you eat!!!

Scarlett said...

@Mumbai Diva - I think I've been asked a couple of times in Mumbai whether we'd like to split the bill. It's convenient.

@The Knife - Thanks :) The only reason splitting the bill is difficult in India is b/c people generally don't order separate dishes for themselves. They order a common dish - which is another sore point with me. Life would be so much easier if people ordered their own dish & stuck to it!! Also, Indians would tend to look down on the concept.

@Serendipity - Yes I remember! How can I not? :P

@Moonshine - How much food can you carry to work? You bag gets heavy:(
People here are so weird...they take offence when you tell them you can't share b/c you have very little, or that they should order their own b/c you don't want to share. I wouldn't take offence over something like that. I know a guy who never gets food from home & goes around eating everyone else's. And if you don't let him, he'll call you selfish!

Moonshine said...

For eg, carry 6 rotis + subji.. dole out the roti+subji you will eat on to your plate.. and say you guys can have the rest.. whatever that maybe!!! Easy peasy!! :)