As soon as I sat down to read the morning paper my stomach started growling. Straining my olfactory senses to understand the reason for this insouciance and not finding any, I picked up the morning paper once again, disappointed. I soon discovered the reason for the grumbling.
On the last page, which is where I start, and gradually work my way towards the murders, rapes, political somersaults and bombings on the front page, was a small item about a popular Mediterranean restaurant that was celebrating authentic Nepolitano pizza through the Nepolitano pizza festival. My stomach had apparently reached the item before my eyes had.
Now, any Bollywood movie will tell you that any word in English with an “o” sound at the end is Italian.
What? Haven’t you heard of Al Pacino? Or Robert De Niro? Even Shahrukh Khan knows them. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” in which, to save the heroine from the clutches of Italian police, he stops his flaming red Ferrari and says Al Pacino and Robert De Niro again and again?
What? How do I know they were Italian police? Because they understood Shahrukh Khan’s Italian.
The festival, according to the paper, promised to be a culinary delight with authentic Italian recipes and freshest ingredients.
This restaurant was worth a visit, I promised myself. They seem to be quick learners and are pressing the right switches, I thought. They would have obviously seen food festivals which promised culinary delights with un-authentic Italian recipes and stale ingredients coming to grief and were ensuring they do not repeat the mistake.
Call me fussy it you will, and you may put it down on my banking days where I spent many years double and triple-checking small transactions while missing out the big ones, but I always do a thorough verification before I commit myself.
I looked up the Oxford dictionary. Online of course. There it was. Neapolitaine. Calmed me down, Confirmed that the cuisine on offer was authentic.
How did I know?
Because, in the restaurant’s offer, Nepolitano was how it was spelt, which was incorrect. Surely you would have noticed that. Self-respecting Italians cannot spell in English. It was spelt incorrectly, so the cuisine must be authentic. Any more questions?
We Indians are fussy eaters. We enjoy a variety of cuisines from around the world with the same “garam masala” and “haldi” (spices), softened in the same mix of onions and tomatoes and cooked in the same vegetable or mustard oil. But we know our authentic cuisine from the unauthentic. We can read after all. We studiously avoid any restaurant which says unauthentic cuisine, be it Kashmiri, Italian, Lebanese, or any other. It is a principled stand.
But one thing I must say. Cuisine is increasingly becoming uni-dimensional. While one has the choices of many cuisines, all you see around is restaurants offering authentic cuisine. It is always “authentic Andhra coastal cuisine” or “authentic Hyderabadi biryani” or “authentic Gujarati thali”.
I wonder if I will ever get to eat at a restaurant offering authentic unauthentic cuisine??
For now, I made my way to the Italian restaurant offering authentic Italian cuisine. To make it as authentic Italian as it could get, I had even decided what I was going to order. I would go for leg of lambo and dal makhnio with naano.
Eat your hearts out!