Thursday, January 8, 2009


I really don't wish Tara Parker-Pope any ill at all, but I have to say that I thought of her, Ms. "'But for people who are health-conscious year round, it’s hard to imagine ingesting fried potatoes, no matter what the occasion,'" when I was presented this afternoon with a plate of deep fried white bread, also known as the bread pakora. (This, of course, within 24 hours of last night's deep fried baby corn.) If she thinks fried potatoes are so bad for you, I can only imagine what she would think of deep fried white bread. Not that I really think it's a great idea either. But I was a guest in someone's house, and it would have been incredibly rude to refuse, though I did manage to get the third piece on my plate removed before I'd touched it. If I'm going to eat pakoras (which I generally enjoy), bread pakoras are not my first choice. (All pakoras are dipped in chickpea flour batter, but usually what's in the middle are vegetables or maybe paneer.) At least there was some tasty cilantro chutney to go with it.

But it really doesn't make sense to have a hang up about fried things here. It reminds me a little bit of when I was directing study abroad programs and had at least one student a semester who said she was vegan. This entailed a fair amount of effort to accommodate, trying to get the student chai without milk and chapatis without ghee and so on and so forth. And every single time, partway through the semester, I would find the formerly vegan student eating some dairy-laden thing--a lassi, a bowl of kheer, a plate of paneer tikka--and the student would look at me sheepishly and say that she had decided that her vegan diet could wait until she got home. (I know there are very serious vegans who would never stray from their diets, but my students were clearly not of that persuasion.)

We always used to tell the students not to have any expectations here, and it's still not bad advice. So if more bread pakoras are placed before me, I will gamely consume them, especially if the cilantro chutney is tasty. I do still wonder, though--what would Tara Parker-Pope do?


Anonymous said...

I have been surprised by how many people were offended by my fried food remark. Fried food tastes great, but it's not good for you, and for me, it also makes me feel terrible later, so I avoid it. But in the situation you describe, of course I would eat it, and I'm sure I would enjoy it. -- Tara Parker-Pope

austere said...

Of course I read the column, but I bet that one dollar bill tucked away under the saree stack that she's never had a samosa. That, indeed, is heaven.
Once or so a week is fine.

Sue Dickman said...

Tara, thanks for responding. I hope you're not feeling maligned. I think for me, the sentence that bothered me in your latkes piece was the one I quoted in my post. I would never try to argue that fried food is good for you (and I don't actually eat that much of it), but I do think it's possible to be a health-conscious person who occasionally indulges in fried things, and your Well post on latkes seemed to say otherwise. There are things I don't do like, say, drink soda, (diet or otherwise), because I don't like it and don't think it's good for you, but I wouldn't say that a health conscious person would never drink soda, just because I don't. And as I said in my blog post, bread pakoras are not my fried food of choice, so I wouldn't eat them outside of social necessity. Chole bhatura, on the other hand, is a different matter.