In India, food is the bridge of awkward moments, happy welcomes, stress attacks and so on. Refusal of food means you would like more (like ‘NO GIFTS’ on an Indian wedding invitation is a subtle reminder so you won’t forget to bring one); and being force-fed is a common thing, especially with acquaintances and less familiar folk.
The rules of good food in India exist in a parallel universe that can’t be summed up on a plate – so, for instance, food is never served cold on purpose and salad is not food at all (ghaspoos?) – because paying for a bunch of leaves on a plate would be considered somewhat laughable. Secondly, you can always ask for more – whether you are in a shoddy dhaba or a half decent restaurant, and it’s almost impossible anyone would refuse. At a wedding in South India if you don’t use your hand to indicate that you don’t want any more, they will keep piling on in multiple rounds until you turn over your plate (which is in this case is a banana leaf or elai). Food bills are never split among friends, especially not with strangers – and it’s always a matter of pride over money.
Every Friday at Tiipoi, in the studio, we make popcorn in the microwave and give it a toss in our aluminum chatti with a special home-made gunpowder masala. We eat in newspaper cones (like how most things in India come beautifully wrapped in newspaper, whether its food, medicines or a blouse) in usually under ten minutes because it’s SO damn good. We always share our popcorn with someone from Great Western Studios every week, a regular custom that we’ve invited from India where, for instance, pakodas made on a rainy day by your quiet neighbour will be sent to you (wrapped in a piece of newspaper). Food is a voice in India – a generous, big, loud, proud voice that invites you to sit-down and be fed, and there is no way you can say no. Tiipoi hopes to share this spirit of Indian generosity through our own way on #popcornfridays