A friend’s post on Facebook about Ragi Mudde being called as Tarta De Millet Balle in one of the uber restaurants of the city made me furious; even more so after learning that they are selling it for 800₹. Not the 800₹ part; Keep it aside. We all know that those deep pocketed fat-cats who don’t mind paying are in abundance. But I was very much agitated by the fact that restaurant owners are trying to capitalize on regional delicacies by changing their names and without giving due credits to the original recipe. The pro arguments that the taste is still the same; and that fact that authentic local cuisines are taken to widespread audience is all good. But the need to give it a funky name and make it sound trendy and jazzy is just not right. It is a pure marketing gimmick.
|Authentic Ragi Mudde|
Eating is not about taste alone. It is strongly and intensely a social need. From times immemorial, what people eat never showed class differences to a larger extent. But of late, the social phenomenon of eating has taken shape in such a way that people have started identifying themselves with others by eating what elites and the aristocrats consume. Marooned in the mediocrity of social climbing, the blue collar population has started consuming food they find despicable, but cannot avoid because of social generosity. Pizza is a good example. Gradually this also gave rise to a trend that knowledge of foreign cuisines like French and Italian (even if you can read and pronounce the names of the food items) meant the person is more cool and cosmopolitan. Thus the middle class got attracted to foreign gourmet. In doing all these, somewhere in between the social climbing and overlooking our vernacular food, highly nutritious cuisines like #RagiMudde, which has been the staple food of the south karnataka’s middle class, is branded with lower class association.
|Sugar Frosted Flakes changed to Frosted flakes of Corn|
Now the frequency of even the middle class eating desi gourmet like #RagiMudde has considerably reduced. Just think of your own example: How often do you eat #RagiMudde vs how often do you eat Gobi Manchurian? There are exceptions, but aren’t the numbers are largely inclined towards the latter? The result is that even the desi cuisines are much in demand and hence have attained the luxury status. Now understanding this change in people’s gourmet preferences have benefitted the restaurants in a big way. And the result is amazingly lucrative. But on the other side, just imagine if the restaurant still sells it with the name #RagiMudde; most of us would be largely offended to pay 800 bucks for an austere #RagiMudde. So the only way out is to bridge this gap. This is exactly what the uber restaurants in the city are trying to capitalize on. Changing names of desi food items and putting a hefty price tag and selling it. Ultimately we are the victims.
|KFC advertisement in 1978 said "Kentucky Fried Chicken"|
This result of thoughtful menu planning and marketing is pure MBA stuff [which even I have studied to an extent ;)]. They are done by expert gourmet marketing consultants who charge a fortune for the job to be done. Just changing the name of a very healthy desi cuisine which costs only 10 bucks to prepare is fetching them 800 bucks. Imagine the trend. Not only #RagiMudde, There are a number of other examples as well. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC because the word “fried” freaked out the fitness aficionados. Sugar frosted Flakes became Frosted corn flakes since sugar was not considered welcome ingredient in breakfast, especially for children. People were not comfortable saying “Rapeseed oil” so it got renamed to “Canola oil” to boost sales.
|The same KFC advertisement post 2000|
Don’t fall for such mega marketing trends and pay a hefty price for just a name changed local gourmet which is disguised as an international cuisine. If the menu does not describe it enough to understand, call the managers and ask them what it is. I always prefer the local fast food joints who prepare good south Indian to restaurants who call themselves specialized in North Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Tandoor and Continental. Next time you go to a restaurant and see “fermented lentil and rice flour crepe with spiced potato filling”, don’t get carried away. It is nothing but Masala Dosa. If your colleague says I prepared “steamed rice breads with spicy vegetable broth stew”, slap her hard and ask her to call it idly.
And for god’s sake, never ever pay 800 bucks for Tarta De Millet Balle. It is an insult to Raagi mudde.