Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Paani Poori foodle and its appearance in the Economic Times.

My Paani Poori Foodle made it to Vikram Doctor’s Column in the Economic times this week. Vikram did a very interesting story on the growing genre of Culinary Comics. (It’s a wonderful article that carries you through this new genre drawing on information from different sources and weaving it together in true Vikram style). If you do not read Vikram’s column – and you should if you are a foodie of any kind – then please start. Because nobody writes as well on Indian food as he does IMHO.

But I digress, Vikram makes an interesting point in his article. About whether expensive food photographs are required in cookbooks – when illustrations might serve better. Particularly because  the Paani Poori Foodle that went in with this story came into being specifically to illustrate what a Paani Poori is. If you have ever tried to explain this to someone who is clueless about it you will know exactly what I mean. 

This month on three different occasions that Shekhar offered to take me out, I wanted Paani Poori. So I began to work on a post on it. The one chaat dish most of us Indian women  LOVE to distraction AND crave when we want to be indulged (especially when pregnant & no I am not..) is Pani Puri!
If one has grown up in India no explanations are required, we will know Paani Poori either as Pani poori or Gol Gappas or Puchkas but how do you describe a Paani Poori to a western audience that might never even have seen one, forget tasting it. And I had tried…

Below is something I had written for an article on Chaat a few years ago in an attempt to describe Paani Poori..
“ It is hard to describe Paani Poori. The whole dish is built around a single bite that must be dexterously assembled and in the mouth in seconds! First the Paani Poori Wallah will take a crisp hollow round poori the size of a tennis ball. Cracking a small hole in it he will fill the poori with a mixture of boiled potatoes, mung beans, chickpeas and tamarind- jaggery chutney (a deliciously thick sweet and sour sauce). Once done he will dunk the whole thing in ice cold ‘Paani’ (a chilli spiked mint and rock salt flavored watery liquid) and drop the morsel onto the leaf receptacle of the eager chaat lover. Said aficionado must get the whole thing in her mouth within seconds or end up with soggy/ broken pooris and soiled clothes. Once in the mouth, the poori cracks open with a satisfying crunch, releasing the icy pani and sweet chutney that slide down the throat leaving behind a mouth full of spicy filling. Hard to resist and extremely hard to stop eating!”

Also hard to visualize in spite of that paragraph of what I think is fab writing above ;).

But add this picture to the writing

And suddenly it’s perfect. 

Trying to take pictures did not work here because you could only show the exterior of a filled poori. So as a food writer and stylist I agree with Vikram. Food photography is expensive and does not always achieve the objective. In fact even writing on Indian food might not always convey exactly what a food is to people who have never seen it. Which is where illustrations work, quite fabulously. It took me a while to actually get this illustration done, but I was able to do what I could not have done with a camera, slice off a segment of the outside poori to reveal the fabulous layers of filling inside that make the Mumbai Paani Poori what it is. 

Click on the picture to find out how you can buy a foodle.
The Paani poori illustration is fourth in my series of Mumbai street foods after Chai, The Mumbai Sandwich and The Vada Pao. I am thinking of what to add to this. I think it is a great guide to Indian streetfood. And now, thanks to Vikram I am thinking along the lines of a book of Foodles on Indian food. It’s a great way to showcase our rich culinary heritage in a simple communicable way. After all food is about sharing isn’t it. 
There are many talented artists around the world already showcasing fabulous food through illustrations around the world. If you like my Foodles I would urge you to use the internet and go travel the world of food illustration. There is so much to look at! 

It you know me at all you will know that I love and collect only two food magazines Cuisine New Zealand and the Jamie Magazine, neither of which are available in India unfortunately. While Cuisine does not really carry illustrated recipes, their covers are usually food art. And Jamie, carries some lovely illustrated recipes at the end. Talking about magazines, Saveur Magazine began sourcing illustrated recipes a while ago from their artists. It’s a wonderful selection of recipes and food travelogues. The latest one is by Lucy Knisley author of Relish whom Vikram has written about in his column.

And for illustrated recipes from around the world may I very emphatically ‘suggest’ you check out They Draw and Cook. This is a blog /website that I discovered years ago, run by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell a brother- sister design and illustration team. They conceptualized the idea of They Draw & Cook while on a family vacation. Nate was trying to recreate a favorite dish - fettucine with figs in a balsamic butter sauce - while Salli sat at the counter with her watercolors painting the crate of figs and they realized how fun it was to illustrate food and started talking about creating a little recipe book for friends, family, and clients. They asked some of their artist friends to help, but didn’t get enough recipes for a book. So Nate built a quick blog and Salli started to spread the word - it spread fast! They Draw & Cook now contains the biggest and best collection of illustrated recipes anywhere. You can spend simply hours browsing through it.  The artists whose work you see on They Draw and Cook are diverse and immensely talented showcasing styles beyond imagining and recipes from around the world. Some are professional illustrators or practicing artists, others are passionate doodlers and some might only recently have begun to draw but they have made They Draw & Cook what is – an endless discovery of inspiration! They Draw and Cook is also available as a book now. 

Links and GYAAN
Here is a link to Vikram’s Column read it, follow it, Thank me J!
Cuisine Food Art covers sorry it isn’t a very comprehensive one, they used to have a proper link on theor site but I can’t find it currently.
And here are links to the other places online I visit for food illustrations, Jamie magazine recipe illustrations (google search link, not been able to find a consolidated page on his sit, mores the pity!), Saveur Selection, They Draw and Cook, and here is a link to a search on Google Food Doodles I found recently. I just LOVE the Julia Child one!

If you liked this article you might like these previous articles I wrote on Comic Cuisine – food in popular comics and Food in Fiction.Also Framed Foodles including the Paani Poori one are now available for sale as well. 



Anonymous said...

Fantastic post and, as you say, the 'Foodles' concept makes so much sense. Thanks for all the links to other food illustration, too.

I remember serving pani puri with the amazing Jhalmuri Express and having to explain the dish over and over again - one of your Foodles would have made life easier! ; )

Kavey said...

Loving your foodles! Great you got recognition too!
Have you seen Emma Dibben's work? I live her ingredient art for Waitrose Illustrated magazine xxx

P Thomas Abraham said...

Love your foodles :).
Have decided to add foodles in addition to the photograph for a project that I am working on.More as a PIP (Picture in Picture).Thanks :)and a great blog - Thomas