Food Critic by Indu Balakrishnan

Getting paid to eat? That sounds like a dream come true ain’t it? Get invited to fancy restaurants. Visit chefs who invent new menus. Experience different types of food. Sounds like a treat in every way. 

My first experience with a food critic was when I saw the movie, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’. The drama with which the movie started was quite something. At first I thought they were trying to defuse a bomb. Everyone watched with bated breath. She takes a bite of the food. And very casually, aware of the power in her hands (or rather taste buds), she announces her verdict. The impact, needless to say, was almost tangible. 

I was 16 when I saw the movie. Fairly impressionable an age, I’d say. I’m pretty sure I went through a phase (however brief) that I would like to be a food critic so that I can eat free and fancy food. Key word being free. I grew up in a fairly conservative house where a pizza in 3 months was considered a treat. To that 16 year old, this was a fancy job no matter how you plate it. 

Foodism seemed like a real thing in every way. It can be defined as a keen or exaggerated interest in food, especially in the minute details of the preparation, presentation, and consumption of food. While that sounds exhausting, it is also clearly rewarding. 

And then, I started watching Master Chef for a bit. They made EVERYTHING look delicious. Vegetarian and yet I craved the steak and the chicken. But I also saw the other side. I saw the contestants crestfallen when they did not win. I started watching the show when I was in college. I was not yet cooking. Infact, I don’t think it appealed to me at any level. I loved to eat. With a fantastic metabolism at that age, anything I ate was good for me. No matter how many slices of pizza especially. Ofcourse. But cooking? Oh please. Not my cuppa tea. 

It wasn’t until I got married that I entered the kitchen TO COOK. I started cutting vegebles for my mom since class eight but that was the limit. The occasional maggi does not quite count as cooking now, does it? And after marriage, I was exposed to what it would feel like to be judged for my cooking. Enough Said. 

Today, in the lockdown, I have truly expanded both as a cook and a food critic. I have always been picky about my food but now I understand how to truly taste the food. A food critic is not just about eating it and saying nice and not nice, but understanding how the different ingredients blend and bring out the various flavours. 

Do I still fantasize about being a food critic? No. Because, I think I enjoy cooking more. Cooking is an art. It was always projected as a chore to me. Something you needed to do to survive. In time I realised that it need not always be. The lockdown inspired / forced me to experiment and try out different things ‘cos of the No-Swiggy policy. And I have to say, I’m quite pleased with my effort. I prefer to cook than be a food critic today. 

But I do love it when someone cooks for me too 🙂 

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