<%-- Page Title--%> Straight Talk <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 137 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 9, 2004

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- 5% Text Table--%>

Foodaholic Anonymous

Nadia Kabir Barb

Mummy, come down quickly!" screeched my son. This could only mean that one of the children had hurt themselves or they had somehow blown up the TV or destroyed all the data on the computer. Rushing downstairs imagining all kinds of horrific things, I was greeted by the sight of all three of my offspring sitting in front of the TV watching intently. "It's The Naked Chef", they said in unison without even turning to look at me. Before all of you think I have lost all sense of propriety and decorum and am an irresponsible parent, let me explain. Jamie Oliver alias the Naked Chef is a celebrity chef who gets such a colourful name not because he cooks in his birth suit but because he strips all his recipes down to their basics and makes the whole cooking experience less stressful and definitely less labour intensive. As I tried to tell my son off for giving me such a fright, I was asked very politely to speak softly as they couldn't hear what ingredients had just been mentioned!

At that moment I realised that I, Nadia Kabir Barb was an addict a food programme addict! Not only was I a "foodie", but the voyeuristic pleasure I got from watching all kinds of cookery programmes had unbeknownst to me, been transmitted to my children. It occurred to me that while channel surfing I would end up somehow watching the "UK Food" channel literally salivating at the gastronomic delights being prepared on screen thinking that I would at some point try and re create them at home (not that I ever get around to doing it). I had missed all the tell tale signs but now it was all clear to me. How many children prefer to watch the food channel instead of the hundreds of cartoon networks available? How many children prefer to do food experiments instead of play with their toys? Mine did. My eldest daughter aged ten was fast becoming an amateur chef. Question such as, "can I bake a lemon drizzle cake for dessert?" or "shall we make chicken satay for dinner?" were rather frequently asked. The other day I was going to make roast chicken and my daughter's request was to help. How many parents would decline such an offer? However it dawned on me that "help" soon translated into "taking over" (not that I'm complaining). I gave the instructions and she carried them out to the letter. In fact I watched in awe as she rubbed all the ingredients into the chicken saying, "look I'm massaging the murgi". Not a bit of squeamishness at touching raw meat. If I recall I couldn't even cook when I went to university let alone when I was ten! I had to throw myself at the mercy of my brother who taught me the basics i.e. how to cook rice, daal and korma.

Now they say that once you have acknowledged you have a problem, you are a step closer to getting better. I had identified my addiction and was trying to get to the root of the cause. The more I analysed the more I realised that actually I was not alone in my obsession. So many people seem to have a passion for food, some love to create and some love to consume. In fact even those who don't fall into either of those categories seem to love talking about food. I remember having a guest who stayed with us for a few days and was on a diet. Every time we offered her something she would decline saying that she was on a strict diet and then promptly reminiscence about how she had had the best Thai food at such and such restaurant and how Mrs. X made the best rezala in Dhaka. No matter how much we tried to divert her mind, the main topic of conversation always revolved around "food". As far as I am concerned, dieting and I just don't get along. Try and tell me that I am not allowed to eat something in particular and I am bound to develop an unbelievable craving for exactly that. For example if it is chocolates, I can almost hear the chocolates in the cupboard calling out to me saying, "eat me, eat me". And I of course oblige.

Being a Bangladeshi, it is also in my nature to obsess about food. We all know that no matter when you visit someone, it is customary to offer (and then force feed) guests tea, mishti, samosas etc. If you decline you are almost certain to offend or insult your host. It still makes me chuckle when I recall a time when my husband (who is not Bangladeshi) had offered to pick up a package for a relative from their in-laws house. He left first thing in the morning to avoid traffic hoping to be back within the hour. However, I got a phone call soon after from my husband telling me in an agonised whisper that they had gone onto the kitchen and he could "hear the sound of frying"! "You'll have to make a run for it or eat your way out of this situation" was my rather unhelpful remark.

My very short journey of self discovery has taught me that actually being passionate about food or even cookery programmes is not such a bad thing after all. In fact I believe The Naked Chef is on TV again in about two minutes…


(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star.