We would’ve loved to hear the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama speak while on her recent trip to India. Not a single public utterance left many feeling shortchanged, especially since the independent-minded lawyer is no greenhorn when it comes to backing causes. For an agrarian-centric country like ours, it would have been an absolute delight to hear her views, especially on the importance of supporting fresh, locally grown produce, a cause that she has been a vocal supporter of, for a while now.
Let’s face it refrigerators in most urban households are stashed with processed, treated food, flown over thousands of miles, and far, far from being anywhere close to farm-fresh. Barring a minuscule population, most don’t blink when it comes to consuming processed food. Jam-packed itineraries, insane working hours and unbearably-long commutes add up to make for an ideal scenario where processed food becomes the quick-fix, instant answer to TV dinners and rushed working lunches. Ever wondered why and how frozen food counters in supermarkets are always the most crowded? Your guess is as good as ours. Of course, getting into the dangers of regular consumption of such products would warrant space for a separate column altogether.
Small signs of a mini revolution are around us in the form of farmers markets, organic retail outlets and farmers cooperatives in Mumbai. But these are far and few, and way too marginal, to create any major impression on our mindset and choices. We could sure do with more of it, aided by an understanding of why this mission needs our wholehearted support, and more importantly, corporate funding to make a larger imprint. Sadly, and often, we’ve learnt how some of India’s freshest produce be it seafood, grains, fruits and veggies, tea, even is shipped off to the Western Hemisphere and other parts of Asia.
More reason why we would like to see Mumbai’s restaurant community go all out to back this cause. Maharashtra, with its varied landscape and long coastline, can offer a rich spread at our tables. A great way to realise this idea would be to insist on only fresh, local produce to whip up the true flavours and aromas of regional cuisine on our menus and in our restaurants.
It’s a small step but it can go a long way to ensure that a capsicum farmer in a tiny hamlet in Junnar can reap an equally rich dividend just as you tuck into a healthy serving of Capsicum Masala at your weekend eating out destination. It’s never too late to start afresh.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day
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