Fiona Fernandez: The community shop
An hour at a four-decade-old neighbourhood supermart offers fascinating insight into eating habits of a suburb
A little over a week ago, we, like most Christians in the city, were in last-minute shopping mode for Easter. No, this wasn't for a swish outfit to wear for the service but a sprint to the neighbourhood cold storage to source meat and fish for the grand feast that had to be prepped at home after the fasting period of Lent.
Now, don't get confused by the term 'cold storage' in this context. In fact, it's quite the contrary of all imagery that comes to mind. This particular establishment, Eat Well [how very apt, no?] has been a part of our growing up years, when it was just that – a cold storage. A big challenge indeed, especially if it happened to be located in the vegetarian-dominated suburb of Mulund. Today, it's a buzzing community hub for all things edible, fresh and local, outgrowing its earlier definition.
A day before Easter, when we dropped by the shop, it was milling with activity. After sourcing our picks for the home luncheon, we chatted with the owners, the Phadnis brothers on the change in eating habits of the suburb. Much to our surprise, we learnt that pork was the leading meat choice by a long distance. Apparently, after the clampdown on beef, the meat-eater's palate has also had a shift, we were told.
Talk moved from pork and its calorific components, like bacon and ham to the other end of the spectrum – healthy eating. In the middle of all the feasting and whiff of freshly baked cakes, Easter eggs and loads of homemade goodies sourced from home chefs around the suburb, neighbouring Thane and even far-off Bandra, we listened intently about the emergence of a growing population of new-age chicken loyalists who plumbed for the treated and cured kinds, and swore by their daily calorie intake. Fish also seemed to be a hot favourite among this tribe. Fresh catch of pomfret, mackerel, rawas and prawn from Sassoon Dock and Thane's popular fish market, were the big draws, while (bland) basa seemed to be the preferred pick for newly converted pescitarians.
All of this, in veggie-happy Mulund. We were smiling. It was a turnaround and how. From the days when one had to make do with just the basic few cold cuts, and fish from the local fish market and the odd monthly trek to either Crawford Market or Bandra for the 'good stuff', this was a mini food revolution that we were witnessing in the farsan and fafda loving suburb. Don't get me wrong, if you're wondering whether the savoury pastime has taken a backseat. Step into any of the suburb's vintage kirana stores and farsaanwallahs, and you'll be stumped with the variety. We'll have to save that discussion for another column.
All in all, our visit to Eat Well on a cheery Saturday morning was a fascinating study, one where cosmopolitanism was in full flow – from the polka-dotted dress sporting Goan aunties scanning their pork cuts and the Maharashtrian kakas keen on 'fakth Baramati chicken' to the Gujju gym-freaks shopping for all things lean. More power to such neighbourhood gems, where community and food are on song.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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