Poha, a breakfast fixture, finds mention in Krishna-Sudama tales; Indore's famed flattened rice dish looks at GI tag

Poha also went beyond India well before cornflakes was invented.

Agencies
When the British came to India, they found the easy-to-prepare poha a useful product for their Indian soldiers.
Applying for Geographical Indication (GI) status for foods can be contentious, as the battle between Odisha and West Bengal over GI status for rosogullas shows. But hopefully the plan by the splendidly-named Indori Mithai Aur Namkeen Nirmat-Vikreti Vyapari Sangh for GI status for poha should not face problems.

For one, the Sangh hopes to establish heritage status for just the heartier form of the flattened rice dish enjoyed in Indore. But also, it is welcome that anyone is trying to give poha its due. The food world delights in making obscure ingredients trendy, yet poha remains both familiar, yet curiously unappreciated. We eat it for breakfast, or as a snack in chivda, or grind it to give dosas and papads a certain lightness, but rarely consider it otherwise.

Compare that with corn flakes, which are essentially the same thing: Soaked and cooked grain that is then flattened and dried. The Kellogg brothers invented the process in the 1890s and built a fortune from it, but poha making is far older. The story of Krishna and Sudama usually has the latter bringing a few handfuls of poha when he goes to meet his rich and royal friend — and far from disdaining, Krishna relishes this memory of their youth.


Poha also went beyond India well before cornflakes was invented. When the British came to India, they found this easy-to-prepare grain a useful product for their Indian soldiers. In 1846, The Times of India reported an order from the Bombay garrison that whenever native troops were to be transported by ship, “the commissariat department will supply only grain parched, and ‘powa’, for their use on the voyage.” In 1878, the paper reported that a troop of sepoys was detained at Cyprus for want of ‘powa’ for their journey back home.

Like To Instagram Your Food? Here's What Marco Pierre White, Garima Arora And Other Celeb Chefs Think
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Documenting on Instagram what’s on your plate seems to be the order of the day. But what do these chefs think when patrons whip out their phones and photograph the food?

Documenting on Instagram what’s on your plate seems to be the order of the day. But what do these chefs think when patrons whip out their phones and photograph the food?
Michelin star chef Marco Pierre White

“Everyone goes to restaurants for different reasons — some go for the ambiance, some for the name on the door, some to click pictures of the food. I go to restaurants to be fed. As it is, chefs spend so much time making dishes look pretty, that by the time the food reaches the table, it’s tepid. Enjoy the food, not your phone.”
Michelin star chef Marco Pierre White “Everyone goes to restaurants for different reasons — some go for the ambiance, some for the name on the door, some to click pictures of the food. I go to rest..
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Michelin Star Chef Garima Arora

“It is a two-way street and you have to meet halfway. The guests have to respect your food and we have to understand that the guests have to enjoy the experience in their own way.”
Michelin Star Chef Garima Arora “It is a two-way street and you have to meet halfway. The guests have to respect your food and we have to understand that the guests have to enjoy the experience in ..
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Manu Chandra, Chef Partner, Olive Group

“I see no harm in people Instagramming their food before eating. It’s far less harmful than being glued to your phone through out the meal. Also it’s free marketing for restaurants.

"People who use their phone during dinner, well that is rude. No message will end the world if you don’t check it whilst eating. I don’t use social media much and don’t see how it’s had any adverse effect on my life. I’m just fine, thank you.”
Manu Chandra, Chef Partner, Olive Group “I see no harm in people Instagramming their food before eating. It’s far less harmful than being glued to your phone through out the meal. Also it’s free ma..
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Chef And Restaurateur Floyd Cardoz

“Everyone’s dining experience is their own. If someone wants to Instagram their food, I do not have a problem with it. I love taking pictures of my food, I love recording what I have eaten — it helps me remember any credible dish I have had. I think people should do it, as long as they don’t use the flash and disturb other guests. You’re paying for it, you can do what you want. Taking pictures of what we have eaten have become a big part of how we live. I want my guests to have a good time.”
Chef And Restaurateur Floyd Cardoz “Everyone’s dining experience is their own. If someone wants to Instagram their food, I do not have a problem with it. I love taking pictures of my food, I love re..
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Indian Celebrity Chef And Restaurateur Ritu Dalmia

“I am not much of a social media person, but I have to admit I like Instagram. You see some amazing food pictures and videos on it. I think I am no one to judge whether it is rude or reasonable, that is for the other people on the table to decide. As a chef and host of the restaurant, I have no problem with it. They want to capture the beauty of their plate, I consider it as a compliment.”
Indian Celebrity Chef And Restaurateur Ritu Dalmia “I am not much of a social media person, but I have to admit I like Instagram. You see some amazing food pictures and videos on it. I think I am n..
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Michelin Star Chef Srijith Gopinathan

“This is obviously the trend of this generation and I believe it’s one of the best ways to connect, showcase and communicate. This is an idea that one should embrace looking at the numerous advantages around it rather than some of the annoying factors. Like everything, social media has its pros and cons. However, I feel the pros outweigh the cons. Using your phone on the table is reasonable as long as it’s used only to take a picture. Beyond this, it is just rude.”.
Michelin Star Chef Srijith Gopinathan “This is obviously the trend of this generation and I believe it’s one of the best ways to connect, showcase and communicate. This is an idea that one should e..
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Poha was probably ideal for the voyage for the same reason it’s good to eat on flights — just pour hot water and in a few minutes, its fluffed up and ready to eat. It is also useful during natural crises, like floods, when it can be supplied as an easy-to-prepare food.
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This has also caused misconceptions among raw food faddists that poha is a grain that magically needs no cooking. It is, of course, cooked in the preparation process, in which the rice gains a slightly gelatinous quality which probably accounts for its particularly soft texture when rehydrated.

This might also make it slightly resistant to integrating with curries, which has been cited as one reason why it isn’t used more. Poha’s status as a slightly superfluous product is shown by a series of government orders in the 1960s, when rice was in short supply, limiting its manufacture, to hold rice for regular use. (Presumably the Army had found other rations by then).

Luckily, those times are past and poha can now be made without restriction. All that’s needed is for us really to appreciate and use it, in different ways, and for that the Indore organisation’s GI application, is one much needed step.
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