Food blogs are gaining some prominence. In the last few days, two people have posted on my blog, one offering to send me Danone yoghurt to taste and write about, and another a missive from Sweden on food products planning to enter the Indian market. Which brings me to an interesting thought - Busybee and Vir Sanghvi notwithstanding, India does not have much of a culture of mainstream food journalism. No major newspaper has a food editor or even a dedicated food section. Food magazines are at best Femina supplements, while A Michelin-like guide is as distant a dream as many of the cars that sport those tires.
In contrast, The New York Times gives its (daily) food section prominence equal to the sports pages, while Europe worships its many food guides (chefs have committed suicide for failing to get the desired stars). The food press worldwide is massive - innumerable magazines with names like Gourmet or Restaurant (we're not even talking wine mags) sell lakhs of issues; they've successfully replaced grandma or next-door-aunty as the source recipes and kitchen tips. Similarly, cookbook sales in India are tepid, Sanjiv Kapur or Tarla Dalal never seriously challenging a Nigella Lawson or Madhur Jaffrey. Even Masterchef India is more about crying than cooking.
Part of this may be to do with the average Indian's inherent suspicion about any food that is not his own. When Raj or Kesari Travels advertises proudly never having to touch Italian food when taking tours to Rome (or French food in Paris), you start to get the message. Take me to Pisa but feed me no pizza, the average Indian traveller might say. Yes, vegetarian plays a role, but its hard to see how German breads, French jams or Italian cheeses - all of which these tours scrupulously avoid - can offend religious sensibilities. Nor is this phenomenon restricted to Mumbai Gujaratis; Bengalis are intrepid travellers but carrying food from home so that you will have something to eat on your travels has been a constant refrain. Indians travel to see the world, only through the eyes - the mouth is strictly reserved for noisy opinions on what has been seen.
Its not that India has no eat-out culture - the dhabas, the udipis, the chaat, mithai and kabab stalls have all been flourishing for centuries - but the focus is firmly on familiarity. For most of India, wife-knows-best is less an expression of marital subjugation; more an inability to accept any kind of dietary flutter.
This is a huge pity, really. India is one of the world's great culinary destinations, stuffing at least a dozen of it's greatest cuisines into a relatively small diamond of land. And yet, less is written about all this than the perfect way to boil an egg.