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The sorry story of the uttappam October 6, 2007

Posted by C Y Gopinath in Food, Humor.
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The uttappam was feeling threatened by globalization — who am I? why does the pizza look like me? what should I do? C Y Gopinath counsels

 

It was a humid day, the sort that dampens all urges towards food.

I was sitting in my clinic, toying desultorily with some listless peanuts, when I sensed that someone was watching me. For a few years now — in fact, ever since parsley and iceberg lettuce began appearing in the local market — I have been running a small but successful practice counseling various culinary items who felt their identity threatened by the influx of Chinese, Italian, Lebanese, and Mughlai cuisines into India. My regular clients today include aloo chops wondering about the meaning of life after the MacAloo Tikkis; vermicelli upmas intimidated by chow mein; puri-bhaji that have been told that the railway platform now belongs to burgers; and others such paranoid entrées. I once had to make peace between some cloud-ear mushroom and a cabbage who feared displacement.

This particular evening, as the nation raced towards the millennium, I was certain I was being watched. I turned around, ostensibly to knock the ash out of my meerschaum, and casually glanced up. There it was. An unprepossessing uttappam about 10 inches across, it surface flecked with a few cowardly onion flakes.

“Ahem,” it cleared its throat. “I was wondering if you could help me.” I said nothing.

“It’s about the pizza,” it continued.

“What about the pizza?” I asked.

“Well, it’s pretending to be an uttappam,” replied the hapless dish. “But smarter. People think it’s an imported uttappam, and they go for it in a big way.”

I thought it was time to take this miserable little flip-flop in hand. “Listen,” I said. “You are an ancient rice batter preparation with history on your side. The pizza is a bread with some ketchup, odds and ends baked with cheese on top. How could anyone confuse you with that?”

Trouble started, said the uttappam, when the Udipi restaurant owner began to sprinkle Amul cheese over the uttappam just before frying it. The cheese would not melt or brown over, but merely turn a little crisp. “We were humiliated,” said the uttappam. “No one has done that to us before. And it’s all because the pizzas are baked with Mozzarella.”

In the meantime, atrocities were being committed upon the uttappam’s cousin, the dosai. The Dosa Manchurian was invented in a small tattukada in Cochin, in which the dosai was made to hold its own weight in chow mein, instead of the usual warm spiced potato mash. Indeed, every conceivable filling and covering was being indiscriminately inflicted upon the dosa — from heron’s egg omelettes to prawn malabari to chicken dopiaza to vegetable stew. The dosai was so crushed by these assaults that it surrendered its identity meekly.

Even Chinese cuisine, once Chinese, latterly Indian, and now victim of the Indian cook’s attempt to please all and sundry, was being mauled. In a small eatery in Mumbai, I had myself tasted the Chow Mein Manchurian Mussallam, in which finally the mainland meets the hinterland in a clashing war of opposite tastes. All lose, only the cash register wins. I had beheld horrified the dawn of the Hakka Afghani, the Tandoori Croissant, the Amritsari Upma, with chunks of Reshmi Kebab in it.

I even understood why it was going on. This country could not stand globalisation. The Indian abroad hides behind papads and garam masala. The Indian at home carefully checks the ‘imported’ dishes coming in through Immigration, and then cleverly renders them insignificant by ‘adapting’ them. The adaptation process is simplicity itself — he must sprinkle garam masala over it, substitute ghee for olive oil, rev up the red spices a little and sprinkle the dish with coriander just before serving. The pizza thus vandalised could be fashionably re-named La Pizza Indiana, and be hailed as a triumph of thinking global but acting local.

My wretched uttappam was sniffling. “What shall I do?” he moaned. “I have lost my self-respect.”

An idea struck me. “You have lost nothing,” I said firmly. “You have only gained. Listen carefully: the pizza is undergoing deep changes. I expect that its base will soon be substituted by a thick dough of rice and lentils. Tomatoes may become optional. This is your chance: you must strengthen your foundation with a strong baking dough made from good baking flour. I want you to welcome all sorts of toppings, even non vegetarian ones. Don’t flinch under bacon or tuna or ham or mince. And when they bake you, smile as though you love nothing more.”

“But — but —“ spluttered the uttappam. “I won’t be an uttappam any more!!”

“You won’t, perhaps,” I said reasonably. “But the pizza will be the uttappam. The more it resembles the uttappam the bigger the market for it.”

“And I? What will I be?” whined the uttappam.

“Why, you silly little pancake,” I said, my patience snapping. “You’ll be a pizza, of course. You’ll be the king.”

Comments»

1. bee - October 6, 2007

“The Indian at home carefully checks the ‘imported’ dishes coming in through Immigration, and then cleverly renders them insignificant by ‘adapting’ them.”

true. we had a “mohan chainees chana wala” near our home.

2. bindiya - October 6, 2007

Interesting, but then what’s your take on Chinjabi food that’s flooding India?

3. Anita - October 6, 2007

I sincerely hope we can let the pizza and the uttapam both be – there are enough variations of both already! Chinese Pizza and Italian Uttapam – may there be hope…And, you’ve heard of the abomination called idly manchurian?

4. Roopa (Kitchenaromas) - October 7, 2007

temper cooked pasta with peanut oil, mustard seeds, jeera and hing. add turmeric, dhania-jeera powder and green ciliies..:(
i bet that day ain’t far..if people already aren’t doing it.

Anita, yup, i’ve heard of idly manchurian..and chinese style spring dosa served with coconut chutney and even chinese bhel. Oh my!

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Roopa —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

5. deccanheffalump - October 7, 2007

Wonderful. How nice to discover your blog and know that the old CY.G humour is alive, well and online.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

6. musy - October 9, 2007

Gopi ji, nice one! I am not much of a purist and believe that as long as it tastes good, its fine. Having said that, there’s a limit to which one can experiment…..if the experimentation is for the sake of it, without even knowing what goes well with what else, then clearly its a sad situation. Also, not at the cost of traditional food…..its quite a pity to see noodles and burgers in my village, ‘in place of’ pakode wala and tikki wala…..i don’t mind them, but where is my favorite pakode wale uncle? where are the khatte wale moong daal laddus…..

musical

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Musy —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

7. Anonymous - October 11, 2007

India is changing drastically – we all know that. But when it comes to food, such a drastic transformation is an eye-opener. We sit here, abroad, and dream of the idly-dosa stands, vada pav stands outside our college, the Bhel-wala, pav-bhaji…..things are changing drastically back home. . Im glad to hold on to my memories of when food was simple, uncomplicated, unadulterated and 100% desi! Just like all the other ‘simple’ memories I have of – HOME.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

8. Lakshmi - October 15, 2007

I loved all your recent post and it made my day. Will keep coming back to lighten my heart.

9. Pelicano - October 17, 2007

Ah…there’s no stopping it. Best tuck in!

10. prabhakar - October 20, 2007

sorry to rock the boat…but you’re all just being culinary snobs…i like idly manchurian, and use uthappam in a sour-bread sandwich (along with vegemite, chilli-garlic sauce, and crunchy peanut butter)…:-)

11. anjali - October 23, 2007

CYG cash registers ring loud with southern spice pizza driving the SI nuts here. If only I could sell a Italian uttapam in Italy and go happy to the bank.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Anjali —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

12. Kamini - November 1, 2007

Brilliant, simply too good!
I just wish you would write more often – I am greedy for your writing!

13. Kamini - November 7, 2007

Dear Uthappam, take heart! No less an authority than the New York Times has written about the “uthappamization” of the pizza, in this article about pan-fried pizza!
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/dining/071mrex.html?adxnnl=1&ref=dining&adxnnlx=1194439067-XKbj4aHGVXvEOn3t0MB1Ww
So, wipe that glum look off your face and rejoice! Your day in the sun is drawing near!
Kamini

14. C Y Gopinath - November 8, 2007

Hmmm — I visited the NY Times page. Couldn’t see where they spoke of ‘utthapamization’. It sounded like a slightly bold pizza. There was not even a batter, just a firm kneadable dough. Hmmm.

15. Kamini - November 9, 2007

That was strictly tongue in cheek! (re: the uthappamization). I thought I’d mention the NYT article since it talks about a pan-fried pizza.
These things happen slowly, step by plodding step. Next up: pizza batter! I’m certain that day is dawning!
Kamini

16. Miri - November 14, 2007

Well, well, well – hope the uttapam doesn’t come back for another session with you after it turns into that dreaded pizza – you just might have a schizrophrenic on your hands!

Chennai is dotted with “Chettinad Chinese Multi Cousin” Restaurants……while I’m not a purist by any stretch of imagination, that sign still makes me shudder.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Miri —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

17. anon - November 17, 2007

good show!

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

18. ShuklaSS-1978 - November 17, 2007

very nice writing.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Shukla —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

19. A.S. - November 17, 2007

Dear Mr. Gopinath,
I am an editor with a Delhi based publishing firm and i was just wondering if thereis an email address i can contact you at to discuss your previously published book.
Thanks so much.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
A.S.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Avanija —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2007 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

20. sia - November 21, 2007

i do loved experimenting till the day when someone served me chinese noodles wrapped in dosa instead of potato bhaji as in masala dosa… i am not against people indianising foreign cuisine but hey, there is a limit. had good laugh gopiji. u made my day 🙂

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Sia —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2008 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

21. The Sorry Story of the Uttappam | DesiPundit - November 26, 2007

[…] Y Gopinath sits down the uttappam and allays its fears [hat tip: […]

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello—

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2008 letter in 2015. I was going through old mail and came upon yours.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi

22. Manimala Banerjee - February 17, 2009

m deban
Good to see there are other people who think like me. We are not snobs but purists. I would not dream of adding chillies to my coq-au-vin nor would I add them to my Bengali Sukto. Each is the epitome of its culture and cuisine. To bowdlerise either in my eyes is a crime.
If this is the result of Globalisation God help us.

C Y Gopinath - June 9, 2015

Hello Manimala —

I can’t believe I’m replying to a 2009 letter in 2015.

I wonder if you’ve been wondering where my blog has disappeared to. It is true, the blog has unfortunately been inactive for some time. A part of the reason is that I had shifted everything to a new WordPress site. Though it is still under construction, it is ready for viewing.

Please do come back — lots of my food writing is there, and I’m seriously dreaming up new ones now. You can access it at http://www.cygopinath.com — and sign on when you get the subscription form. I will make sure you get a notification whenever I post a new blog.

Cheers!

Gopi


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