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Big appetites and meal marathons

Music runs in the blood in some families, while others shine in a particular sport. My family comprises unashamed foodies with larger-than-life appetites.

Growing up, our mum had the Herculean task of catering to our insatiable craving for food. So, each meal was a marathon session. Our competitive nature extended to victuals which meant that the lady of the house spent hours in the kitchen trying to douse the flames of hunger. How and why she put up with all of us clamouring for more is still a mystery to me. And the worst part is that this lust for food has been passed down to the next generation.

I must admit that I love watching cooking shows on TV such as the MasterChef series much to the amusement of my siblings since I never enter a kitchen voluntarily. So, I know all the fancy culinary terms and can even participate in a discussion on the best way to cook certain proteins. Just don’t put my knowledge to the test though.

When we were in college, my group of friends celebrated birthdays by going out to lunch, with the birthday girl picking up the cheque. The places we went to were certainly not high-end but this was understandable as we were on limited budgets as our parents were the kind who didn’t believe in splurging. But we enjoyed those meals. But what we really looked forward to was the birthday of a friend whom I shall name Richie Rich. Her father was a businessman and she could afford the best. Her celebration was at an expensive restaurant which was definitely beyond reach for the rest of us. There was no tossing a coin to decide what to order as money was not a constraint. Decades later, we all remember this special meal. Maybe my friends are gourmands like me!

As I order a dish at an exclusive restaurant and view the bill, I am reminded of the relatively minuscule amount we paid back then. But the thought of how delicious each morsel was keeps guilt at bay. When my sister was posted in Paris her pre-teen sons were into fast food such as burgers. Going for a walk meant passing by several places selling the kind of food that made their mouths water. The entreaties would begin, rising in crescendo the longer the parents took to decide whether they should give in. When the stop was made, the two boys would tell their mum between mouthfuls, “Mum, remember this is a snack!” This timely reminder was made just in case their mum decided it was dinner and was thinking of relaxing once they got home.

Having got used to such gargantuan appetites, my mother used to cook in bulk. To outsiders it seemed like a colossal waste of time and ingredients but they had no idea of our home reality. We only realised much later that not everyone ingested as much food as we did. This happened when we invited friends over for a meal and my mum went on a cooking binge. However, we all were shocked at the amounts they served themselves. Was this for real? Did people actually eat so little? The most shocked among us was my mum. She couldn’t believe she was seeing children who stopped eating on their own.

They say you eat less as you grow older. Sadly, that has not yet happened to me yet. Maybe I should go in for bariatric surgery.

— Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.

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