Category Archives: Food
There are several things that still separate an Indian-American from an Indian from India even in this globalized world: accents and educational systems come to mind, as do sports or movie preferences. These are real, but also amorphous. However, we can point to something much more tangible in nature. Perhaps no single thing in the world is a more perfect epitome of the separation between Indian-Americans and their cousins from the motherland than a dark black, foamy-headed sweet and effervescent liquid drink called root beer. In my lifetime, I’ve found that Indians categorically hate this drink, while most Americans of all types including Indian-Americans love this drink.
Having grown up in the American Midwest, where we’d call all manner of fizzy soft drinks “pop,” I have loved root beer for as long as I can remember and probably always will. Widely available commerical brands include A&W, Barq’s, or IBC, and I could drink any of these happily. What’s more, one can place a dollop of vanilla or other ice cream into a glass of root beer, and you get a magical dessert/drink hybrid like no other, known to most Americans as a root beer float. And yet, as much as all-American flavors like french fries, ketchup, pizza, and even colas like Coke and Pepsi have exploded in popularity and affordability in India over the last few decades, root beer is hard to come by. Even Indians who have settled in the United States for decades often won’t ever drink it.
Why??? On the face of it, Indians should love root beer. It’s spicier than most other American colas or soft drinks (with a notable exception in Dr Pepper). Root beer’s traditional historic roots are in the delicious extract of the sassafras tree root or sarsaparilla vine root. As a kid at summer camp, I remember tasting a fresh and hot tea made of sassafras root, an original root beer formula- and it was divine. Root beer is aromatic and has a number of spicy and subtle hints, much like Indian food itself which draws on fraternal spices like cardamom, anise, and cinnamon. I have a theory that Indians typically hate root beer for one simple reason: it reminds them too much of medical products, including a soothing balm called Iodex, a common household item in India. Throughout my life whenever I drank or even mentioned root beer, my Indian-born mother would make a disgusted face, hold her nose and say, “I can’t stand it, smells like Iodex!” I’ve heard similar sentiments over and over by people born and raised in India. Which led me to look into this recently.
Indeed there’s a basis for it. Iodex utilizes methyl salicylate, made of oil extracted from a group of plants called wintergreens or their synthetic equivalent. Commercially produced root beers also use extracts of wintergreens, or very similar plants. Interestingly, just like Coca-Cola, the modern form of root beer was invented in the United States in the 1800’s for medicinal purposes. So, we have come full circle here.
It’s too bad that Iodex has ruined root beer for potentially millions of people in India and other parts of the world. Now you know why. So you say, this isn’t a scientific analysis after all? You must be forgetting that this is Trump’s America now.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
McDonald’s is a special phenomenon, and I know this from my own life experience as a lifelong customer and former employee. Every six months or so, I get a fierce craving for a Big Mac and french fries, or an Egg McMuffin with a hash brown, and it must be fulfilled. I’ve been hooked since childhood thanks largely to the Happy Meals, a bit of tasty marketing genius that evokes warm, fuzzy, fond memories both conscious and subconscious for millions of adults long after they have stopped craving cheap plastic toys in a colorfully illustrated box with their lunches. As children, no less. In my opinion, McDonald’s french fries are also far and away the best around; their formula for fries just works, and always has in my mealy memory. The consistency of flavor no matter where you eat McDonald’s is amazing to behold, especially when you consider that there are 34,000-odd restaurants in 120 countries and territories.
In 1996, just as I was toiling at my first paid, post-paper route job (minimum wage, $4.25 an hour) in a McDonald’s near Cleveland, Ohio, the first franchise in India was opened up by the restaurant chain in New Delhi. India is certainly a potentially huge market for fast food. However, the country poses a formidable challenge for McDonald’s, for several reasons. The company’s very vaunted brand is based on cow meat, the specific protein that a majority of Indians will never, ever put in their mouths. McDonald’s would also need to compete against a large variety of high-quality local delicious Indian
food that is generally more healthy, and packed with spices and flavor. Finally, some Indians are so proud of their heritage that they will always see foreign fast food chains as an affront. So, how is McDonald’s doing at beef-free year 19 in India amid the successes and challenges encountered thus far, and where is it headed?
As you can see, some Hindu activists are NOT amused.
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Some Indian-American folks, including the inimitable Rajan Zed of the Indo-American Leadership Confederation, berated the New England Brewing Company in the last few days for its naming of one of its beers as Gandhi-Bot. An illustrated robotic version of Gandhiji is also on the can. While the demands to rename the India Pale Ale beer have so far not been met, the brewery was forced to apologize for hurting anyone’s feelings.
The ridiculousness continues. Some morons in India are trying to sue the company even though the brewery does not even sell the product in India. Perhaps the name of the beer is insensitive, but this is going too far. We’ve seen this movie before, unfortunately a hundred times, such as the recent attacks of Selena Gomez.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
It’s the Sunday afternoon after Christmas and I’m alone today, so I decided to do something dramatically ridiculous and delicious, just for myself, by myself, on this last Sunday of Anno Domini 2014. Figured I may as well be naughty doing it, and I wanted to reward myself for recently losing a lot of weight through disciplined eating habits. And, why not make it Indo-American fusion?
I have never done crack but I have heard that it’s addictive. So, I wanted to make something so nasty tasty that it would get even a crack addict off crack, and addicted to this new dish instead. I wanted the dish I was planning to make to at once be so novel, stupid, unhealthy, and over the top for this special occasion. The type of dish that makes women swoon, and men drool, in an endless but cool loop of swoon and drool, in just the right serving sizes. But above all, it would have to taste so good that it would clearly be seen as an instant classic, a once-a-year type of treat. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose to you, Food Porn Pasta Sauce- creamy variety. Read the rest of this entry
There are a number of things that Indians simply do much better than Americans, or anyone else. Unsurprisingly, the foremost among these relates to food.
Most Indians know the simple and sweet pleasure of eating our meals with only our bare hands. I swear by it myself. When done correctly, the fingers do all the work and your palms do not even touch the food, making for easy washing up afterwards. I feel sorry for the poor saps all around me who sit down to table with silverware three times a day and have no idea how to eat with their hands. Read the rest of this entry