A Bong friend recently dragged me to have dinner at a restaurant called 'Oh Calcutta'. The chief attraction here is that the food served is 'just like what we once had at home'.
So, in a fancy shmancy setting we had 'home food', at less than homely prices. With each mouthful my friend was going over the moon, while I was wondering - as I chewed on rice with banana flower ki sabzi - whether there were any leftovers in my fridge.
OK - it wasn't THAT bad but really, I wouldn't have wanted to pay 500 bucks for a meal like that. Because I am not from Calcutta and it did not bring back any fond memories.
But it set me thinking... The wheel has turned full circle.
When we were kids, going to a restaurant was the ultimate treat. It happened only a couple of times a year - on my parents' anniversary or some such occassion. And we'd usually visit only Delhi Durbar or Kailash Parbat. But those were days you looked forward to.
This continued into the hostel years - when 'eating out' was a welcome escape from mess food - but usually an unaffordable luxury.
But the tide turned when I moved out of the circumference of mom's cooking - and started living on my own. 'Eating out' became something you did everyday, merely to fill your stomach.
Cut to the present. After years of trial and error I have (at last) found a decent maid to take care of the daily 'paapi pet ka sawaal'. I carry a dabba to office, and usually eat at home.
Of course I still do eat out a couple of times a week to:
a) Catch up with friends over a meal.
b) Try out some new place/ kind of food - for the experience.
I think 'ghar ka khaana' will be the Next Big Luxury for many of us. Good household help is scarce - as are wives who will toil in the kitchen daily. As two-income families mushroom the question is - will they survive on ready-to-eat/ junk food/ Udipi meals?
Mumbai has always had enterprising ladies who send lunch and even dinner dabbas with home-cooked food. But I think the next step is actually a chain of take-aways, located in office complexes/ malls from where you can pick up home-cooked mix n match meals.
So you could pick up 6 chapatis, 100 gms alu-tamatar ki sabzi and 100 gms moong ki daal + some dahi on your way home - enough for a couple.
The smart thing would be to have - the way dabba ladies do - a variety of cuisine. ie Gujarati, Punjabi, south Indian - more styles depending on demand.
Someone will of course have to study how to make on a mass scale food that tastes just like ghar ka. While no two moms cook alike, there is a generally accepted spectrum in which home food falls.
The menu would be more 'pedestrian' - tindli, torai, alu-gobhi, tur daal. Even if there's paneer - it would be home-style and not swathed in heavy gravies and spices like restaurants normally serve it.
I've seen this in Thailand, where women are a very visible part of the workforce. Department stores like Tesco Lotus offer these kind of takeaways, as do women in malls with small carts.
I read somewhere that Food Bazaar has started something similar on an experimental basis in Andheri and Goregaon. But haven't had a chance to visit. If anyone has - and can vouch for taste/ hygiene do lemme know!