Saadia's Side: The Food Woes of a Desi in Australia
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Saadia's Side: The Food Woes of a Desi in Australia

Here is a reflection on the difficulties faced by a desi living in Australia when it comes to finding the right food choices

Instead of writing all day long sitting on my living room’s thick couch which has now started losing its thickness (thanks to my long writing assignments), I decided to work from a library. I thought it would be a more productive idea to focus fully on my work as I would neither have the distractions like my laundry thoughts nor the option of eating something every time I finished a story. The library was in the midway of my gym and home hence it seemed a win-win situation. As much as it meant lesser travelling time to the gym, it also guaranteed I would not be hogging (like an animal I must not name) every now and then.

Hence, the City of Perth, Library it was. Surrounded by beautiful trees swaying in the wind and St. Mary’s Cathedral visible from the glass wall, I could not think of a better place for my creative pursuits.

The good thing about the library was a café located on the ground floor. Being a compulsive foodie, it was my religious obligation to first check the café and all it had in store. Although I had no plans of eating here (which is why I came here in the first place), I wanted to be prepared and equipped in as an emergency as grave as being hungry arose. Standing at this café which itself looked straight out of a classic novel, I enthusiastically looked at the menu as if it was the basic purpose of my existence (maybe, it was).

Gluten-free brownies, muffins of sorts, cheese sandwiches, avocado on toast, croissants, walnut salads, an assortment of hot and cold beverages, and everything else that came in between was there on display.

As exotic as it might sound, I walked silently towards the staircase which led to the top floor where I was supposed to sit and do what I did at home: write all day long digging out what Sonam Kapoor wore and what Mahira Khan had for lunch.

You might be wondering if my silent walk was due to my enthusiasm for work. No darling, you are mistaken exactly the way I was when I stood in front of the picturesque café. I was disappointed one more time as I looked at the items that the ‘exciting’ menu had to offer. You must also be wondering I was being ungrateful for so many options available. Wait till you get to read what I am saying in the next few paragraphs.

The way we desis have the tendency to spice up and add flavour even to the Italian pasta, the Australians have the innate capability of ruining every food item for us desis. While cheese sandwiches to us mean crispy buttered toasts loaded with the cheddar cheese and some spices, here it is a slice of sad mozzarella grimacing over its forced union with a few thin slices of tomato. Pizza to us back home means a festival celebrating everything from the melting cheese to the feisty chicken, here it is another sad story with a frailing thin bread base struggling to find its way through tomato paste and basil to see some balls of mozzarella (I swear, no pun intended) slothing aimlessly just here and there.

I know India and Pakistan do not make authentic Chinese food. But dude, our claim to fame is making it better than the original. Our kinds of pasta might not remind you of the ancient streets of Naples but I guess we are doing pretty fine for ourselves.

Finding halal food is another quest which requires my patience to write a separate and detailed piece in a few more days.

Thanks to the Indians for globalizing the desi food and making it available worldwide but hey, hold my drink here too. The desi food that you get to eat at literally any place in the world (minus our beloved Dubai, of course) is not even remotely Indian. Probably, they have avenged our attempt of adding desi-ness to the world cuisine. You take the first spoon of the overly priced biryani available in this beautiful riverside restaurant just to let the reality hit you hard on the head. Yes, the desi food is quite overpriced as compared to the local Australian food because the tables have been turned. Our food is considered exotic here just like fish and chips back in our home countries.

The other day an Australian friend told me how much she loved Biryani. And I sighed in heart wishing her all the best in getting to eat the real biryani at least once in her life.

So, you are left with no choice but to learn to prepare whatever you have loved back in the desi Lala lands you have come from. In case of emergency (like feeling hungry) the choices are slim. But the silver lining is that I can come to the library for work with complete confidence that I would dare not eating anything after finishing my first story. My optimism will surely take me places.

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By Saadia Ahmed
Saadia Ahmed is a Bollywood and cheesecake fanatic with no obvious interest in space travel. She tweets @khwamkhwah day in and out

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