We desis have a culture of eating freshly cooked food, perhaps other cultures too have that, but since the advent of technology we have got into the habit of storing left-overs. Even though we have left overs, there is always a 20-minute conversation at least on what to have for dinner!
Here’s what Rahul Walia, the creator and executive producer of Kawan Kitchen Mate, has to say about the dinner psyche – “Mornings have to be quick, because there isn’t much time to think, but by the time evening arrives, there is a sense of more time or the thought of let’s eat something interesting comes in and people wonder what to eat, even though there are left overs. And this is exactly why Kawan Kitchen Mate was conceptualized. We help people resolve their left over dilemma – so we make a new dish with left overs, and what’s more it has a western touch!”
Food has a direct impact on our moods and hence we delve into feelings about – ‘I feel like I want’ an ice cream or a pizza and so on. And while giving into our feelings we end up making more food and storing them and most of the left overs then get dumped into the garbage. Essentially we cause a lot of wastage as well, because we as desis don’t cook for just four people or two people (as many numbers as in the family) but sort of for the whole street! And obviously no one can eat the same food for 10 days in a row and that’s where some of the recipes of the show come in handy.
For us desis, family is really important and along with it feeding the family, and once we have kids they have their tastes too. When we live here in the US, our kids are exposed to western food and not so much our Indian food, especially when they start going to school. So the goal of the show has been to make it palatable to both western and Indian tastes. For example, spinach quiche – it’s great for most people who are used to eating bland food, but for desis it is just bland. With a desi touch to it, with our masalas the dish turns into a spicy one, palatable to Indian tastes.
What I found really interesting was the Aloo-gobi soufflé in one of the episodes. Well, it seems like a matter of adapting the left over vegetable into a French-Indian soufflé. The following episode with the Thanki family not only teaches us how to make the savoury soufflé but also reveals more tasty dishes.
As I watch these episodes, I realize how integrated our food tastes are; as in, it isn’t really uncommon to find a south Indian dish in a North Indian house or vice-versa. Also our want to eat tasty food works in our favour in terms of us adapting to the new culture. The goal seems to be to showcase the changing flavours in our culture as we adapt to a new culture and also form a new one in the process.
Rahul Walia, from his interaction with these families says, “We hear stories of all these desis who now own beautiful houses and have adorable families. The stories are quite similar – they all have worked hard to get here and continue to do so. Of course, they are in a much better place from where they began. And they have adapted to the new culture, while staying rooted in the old.”
In fact in most houses shown, there is an abundance of desi food along with some western dishes, which are then completely turned around. This sort of ignites the viewer’s and the participant’s brains to experiment with left overs. Kawan Kitchen Mate is soon starting their third season and are traveling to more parts of the US to cover our food culture. And as they move on to the new season, they are also looking for a new host who is a foodie and are auditioning for the same.
Rahul feels that there couldn’t be a better way to connect with our community other than through food, because wherever we go we try to get our kind of food there. He is grateful to all those previous generations of Indians, who travelled here and now have given us access to Indian food in America. So one could even consider Kawan Kitchen Mate as a tribute to our long journey here and a documentation of our adaptation to this new culture.