Ethnicity is a part of a person’s identity. It is a determinant of what makes a person what he or she is. Ethnicity is an array of multiple factors which prevail in a society. It may be inclusive of language, music, culture, attire and even food.
If a person says that he eats sushi, our first guess would be that he is somewhere from Southeast Asia. Many will be conclusive that they are from Japan. If a woman says she loves samosas, you’re thinking Indian. It is a common assumption. Since the term ‘global village’ has come into existence, food has crossed borders as well. Locals travelling to faraway lands have brought their own recipes, their own food to the land of the strange. They introduce these recipes to their new neighbors, the new land they inhabit and the people taste something unique, something they have never tasted before and they take a liking to it.
That is not the case many of the times. The natives of the new land might not always like the original composition of the foreign dish which they taste. The reason is that their taste buds do not recognize any familiarity in this new dish which they are used to. The natives might not identify the flavor profile which the original dish contains, they might find it strange and the success of the dish might be entirely dependent on the basis of familiarity of flavor rather than its difference.
In Pakistan, many of the dishes are first defined by their status of being halal. Meat, vegetables and even the spices used have to be certified. Once we are over that barrier, the aesthetics of the ingredients and the flavor profiling arise.
Imagine a pizza crust, thin and crisp with a rich tomato sauce and basil leaves. Topped with cheese, not the typical cheddar cheese, but mozzarella. That is the Neapolitan pizza Margarita. How many people do you reckon would eat that in Pakistan? They would like their pizza with some chicken cubes, olives and pizza, oozing with cheese with a chewy crust. That is what an average Pakistani expects out of pizza when they order it at a pizzeria. An Italian would probably be devastated by the composition of a typical pizza. A Pakistani favorite, the Chicken Fajita is a fusion. Many Italians will not register fajita as a pizza. Reason being that fajita is a Mexican food. Similarly, the shawarma is an Arabic dish. It usually contains hummus, dry vegetables like turnips and cauliflowers and carrots with a filling of mutton. It would be a completely foreign and alien dish if served to a Pakistani family. There would be a fifty percent probability that they would like it or not.
No dish can be eaten in its original composition. The average Pakistani could not digest any foreign food without a hint of garam masala here, a pinch of red chilli powder there and loads of onion and garlic and tomatoes in every recipe. Concepts of sauce and jus are rarely recognized. The originality of cuisine gets compromised in such a food market. The consumer market will not be enthusiastic about trying out new flavors thus the connoisseurs of a cuisine compromise in their critique. The original recipes are modified to adjust to the palate of the locals and the cuisine is limited to a selected range of population willing to taste and accept the cuisine in its authenticity.
Thus the more sophisticated cuisines like the French cuisine, the Spanish or Mexican cuisine and even the more sophisticated palate of Italian cuisine has failed to flourish in our country. The association factor looms like a dark overcast to the prospect of foreign cuisine flourishing in Pakistan. We are experiencing a faux cuisine industry in all the high end restaurants that compromise the honesty to the aesthetics to fit the bill of their customers.
Contributed by: Amna Jawad.
09 Oct 2018