Article

By Madhulika Dash

 

When it comes to love, nothing translates it like food. In fact, such is the bond between food and love that even the legendary Julia Child had once said, “No matter how you slice and dice it, food and love are inextricably tied.”

The proof are the earliest records found in ruins of ancient Egypt, Rome and even Indus where blocks and scrolls are dedicated to art of using food for good life, including love. Marcus Gavius Apicius, the famous Roman gourmand and the first (surviving) cookbook writer went to great lengths to document interesting ingredients and finer dishes that evoked strong feelings like love. The flamingo tongue was in fact one of Apicius’ favourite dishes for its fine flavour – and was said to be made on special occasions (and for special guests). History interestingly has many of these dishes that were used to profess love and eventually was regarded the perfect personification of love – in every form.

This Valentines’ Day, a few chefs have decided to give that “idea of love” their own ode. We get a round of some of the most fascinating recantations of what defined Love Through The Eras.

CHEF VIKAS SETH, CULINARY DIRECTOR, SANCHEZ 
LOVE ODE: DARK CHOCOLATE GUACAMOLE, TOASTED PEPITAS, CINNAMON SUGAR DUSTED NACHOS
 

 

“It’s fascinating how some of the oldest cuisines have developed on a few ingredients and two techniques of extracting them. When it comes to Mexican cuisine, it is chocolate, avocado and of course the cinnamon – the latter introduced by Spanish conquistadores, while the former discovered by the Aztec Empire. In fact, back in time both chocolate (a lot bitter version than what we drink today) and avocado (that was loved for its fat content and unlikely sweetness) were considered the food that could change minds – and evoke a sense of lust among women. So much so when avocado was harvested women were asked to stay within the walls, while men were banned to be around chocolate drink. The Dark Chocolate Guacamole, Toasted Pepitas, cinnamon sugar dusted nachos is a recreation of that very era where food became not only a way to serenade your love but also profess your love (and a little lust too).”
 

CHEF AKSHRAJ JODHA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, ITC WINDSOR 
LOVE ODE: MAANS BAJRI SOYETA
 

 

“While the word “aphrodisiac” was coined in the early AD, it wasn’t a followed rule. Food for love was more about the nostalgia. Like the MaansBajriSoyeta. This rustic food served to a defeated Rao Jodhaby a village lady became his inspiration to conquer ChittorFort once again. Story goes that when Jodha was served BajriGhaat with melted desi ghee in the centre, as soon he tried to have desi ghee he burned his hand. The Jat lady while cooling his hand said, “this is why you couldn’t win your capital back, as you go for the hottest place first. Start from the edge of the food, which has cooled down.” Eventually, Rao Jodharealised his mistake and changed his strategy to win back his capital. Since then Soyeta went on becoming a royal favourite to becoming a de facto messenger – eventually of love as well.”
 

CHEF SABYASACHI GORAI, CHEFPRENEUR, LAVAASH BY SABY
LOVE ODE: DOLMA 
 

 

“It is often explained as a housewives intelligent trick to create small, bite sized meals for her family to relax with. But Dolma, perhaps the only dish to travel across the world taking on a new avtaar each time, was much more than just a clever end of the day meal. It was a close brethren to the little dim sums that were created to woo, and also to profess love (and lust) in equal measures. How else can you explain these little vine-leaf parcels that hide within them the most sensational filling that can in an instant fill your senses with aromatic flavours and balm the soul. Isnt it how William Shakespeare had defined love?! The only way to know is to make one of these brilliant parcels and have it.At least it made Alexander fall in love with dolma, who made them his ceremonial meal to celebrate victory and marriage.”
 

CHEF SHANTANU MEHROTRA, EXECUTIVE CHEF, INDIAN ACCENT
LOVE ODE: RASPBERRY CHIPS, HOMEMADE VANILLA ICE CREAM
 

 

“From the Tudors to the Ottoman sultanas, if there was one thing common in all, it was the love for berries. In fact, berries were a favourite of the French royalty who dedicated their whole pastry chapter to the wonders of berries, especially raspberry. Such was the love for these “food of Love” that even the infamous Marie Antoinette (French Queen) loved her cakes doused with layers of raspberry and preferred her tea time treats with a side of the raspberry relish. This dessert is an ode to what made raspberry and vanilla one of the medieval times best love ballads.”
 

CHEF RAVI TOKAS, HEAD CHEF, PRANKSTER
LOVE ODE: CHENNA CHAAT
 

 

“Theobroma. The word is used to define food fit for god. And if one has to look at some of the Theobroma’s of India then chenna – our very own feta cheese – cannot be left far behind. Originating from the land of the Sunrise (East of India), Chenna was one of the few things that made its in-way from temples to royalty and in all its forms. In fact, legend has it that Chenna Sweets are the first dish that newlyweds consume before starting their married life. Our ChennaChaat takes that very thought of defining love and combines it with our love for chatpatta.”
 

CHEF ABHISHEK GUPTA, EXECUTIVE SOUS CHEF 
LOVE ODE: THREE BEAN SALAD
 

 

“In turkey, Piyaz is a main dish. made of beans, onion, parsley and sumac, it is believed that if someone served you the salad it is a message of love. So what was it that made bean salads such a favourite – even for the powerful sultanas of the Ottoman Empire. One was the look, the two, the ease with which you could create a variety of different dishes and the last was that bean for a long time symbolised a happy heart. legend has it that it was one of the welcome main dishes served to the Sultan by the Sultanas as part of their homecoming celebration. This three bean salad is a recreation of those times and has been treated to showcase the three stages of falling in love.”
 

CHEF HARANGAD SINGH, CORPORATE CHEF, PRAPRA PRANKSTER 
LOVE ODE: ROOHAFZA SHRIKHAND SPHERE
 

 

“For many of us Roohafza may be the proverbial milkshake of the Archie veronica period, where we would have treated our crush to this rose-red drink in anticipation of it playing the singing cupid. But rose-flavoured drink wasn’t a modern day innovation. Rose-scented drinks as “love potion” first came into limelight with our very own power lady, Nur Jahan. Not only she became the first one to create a rose syrup fountain in fatehpur Sikri but also the first sommelier to create a wine that was called Roohafza (fills the soul). It was a drink that since her times has seen many iterations in form of kheer, gulkand and even wine – but with the same purpose of celebrating love. RoohafzaShrikhand Sphere is myode to the years and that very drink that made love all about a heart-warming, floral treat.”
 

CHEF ARVIND KUMAR BHARTI, HEAD CHEF, AMUSE HOUSE
LOVE ODE: CHICKEN LIVER PATE, CHICKEN TERRINE & A POACHED EGG
 

 

“Talk about French fine cuisine, and among the few things that define it are pate and terrine – both supposedly medieval period Europe invention. in fact, before it landed on the French royal tables thanks to Catherine de Medici, pate and terrine was a staple of the wine makers of Champagne region, who were also into animal farming. In fact, pork pate was often found to celebrate a great season of wine making. And much like Galouti, it was its rich, velvety texture that made Pate into one of the sensual dishes of French Dining. So much so that special occasion often began with a hors d’oeuvre of pate served in a terrine garnished with a snow white poached egg. This dish recreates that feeling of smooth, gooey love."