**This article was written for Yeewong Mag's February issue

If you have come to believe that we have sprung forth into a world where there is no such thing as perfect anything, don’t lose heart yet.. for George Bernard Shaw’s words still ring true – there is no sincerer love than love of food – although, satirically, we are the only species on earth who befriend victims until we eat them.

Food is a global thing and at odd times, it can turn out to be as controversial as religion, racism and politics. Arguments about what accompaniments to throw into a dish is not uncommon among couples and the intensity of these arguments can climb a notch higher if the wife and the husband hail from two different sides of the country with contradicting local traditions and beliefs. The Ngalops aren’t totally fond of gravy except for specific dishes such as “maarus” and “jaajus”and prefer their dishes to be full of flavor, for they believe it’s the flavor that satisfy unlike Sharchops, the Easterners whose faith lies in quantity rather than quality. But Sharchops are more adventurous foodie lots for their tendency to mix and match flavors when it comes to cooking unlike the much more stringent Ngalops who believe that ginger, garlic and other spices each have dishes where they are appropriate for use, either as a mix or separately and an appropriate cooking time when their tantalizing flavors will unleash.

It is perhaps owing to my parents being from two different parts of the country, that I was born to have a great love of food. Memories of my childhood are filled with moments of savoring food bite after bite, with not a care for the world and my sister scowling at me to finish up in time atleast once so we could reach school in time. Of course, that never happened and my sister’s school life turned out to be miserable. With numerous excuses, she then scooted off to Punakha high school, only I knew why. My dad who shares my enthusiasm for food-venture was a rare chef who cooked on odd Sundays and the whole lot of us would hover around him, watching him..anticipating the taste of his rare adventure into Chef-hood and such days were always remarkably cheerful and exciting although recollections ungratefully picture my mom serving leftovers for years and years, due to her belief in quantity. However life in colleges and places away from home were a constant struggle to sate my hunger…I needed ridiculously much time for savoring matters but such luxuries are a rarity in a world where time is equated to money.

Strangely, destinations, memories and moments are all associated with food. Perhaps adventures are all about food in the end because food is an adventure in itself. I had my best omlette in Manila about four years back and the tastiest roast meal, bread, pizza and wines in Perth. I had my yummiest coffee sessions at a tiny coffee shop in Bumrungrad hospital in Bankok about a month ago. Those coffee sessions were my moment of calm and where I could hope for the best. And the best fried rice I had of late was at the cozy little Zone (with just about right legroom for a person of my stature and of course, the right mood!) in Thimphu where I went for lunch about a week ago. The same day, a friend generously handed me Gopilal Acharya’s “Dancing to death”; a collection of poems that held my curiosity for a long while. Good food and poetry! That was undeniably a combo that would nourish my body, mind and soul. Now, one couldn’t get luckier than that!

One cannot deny that food is much like poetry or that poetry is much like cooking food or that there’s poetry in food and food in poetry. You can mix and match them but never mishmash them for they have their own identities like brothers from the other mother; entwined in stratified characters, but different in form. They are both extensions and expressions of the one’s moral status and mental welfare, an art form to convey messages only for those with a receptive mind.

Good food aren’t necessarily the most garnished and most appealing to the eyes. In fact, the most delicious foods may come from an ordinary restaurant in town than the popular ones. I have heard people say the best sausages in town are sold in an almost submerged shop near the cinema hall or that the best momos are sold in a dingy place in what is popularly known as the Hongkong market and the best bread in the dark kitchen at Sherubtse College. A local orange from Tsirang may look like a hormonal teenager in contrast to an all-smooth pompous piece of orange from across the border but local oranges are often ten times tastier. Poetries are no different. The titles often do job of luring but poems with the depth of an endless well ultimately have faithful, avid readers.

Writing poetries require diligent consideration of the right ingredients and the right proportions just as preparation of recipes require much decision and choice in picking the best vowels, the best verbs and adverbs from the richest vocabulary. Cortney Davis, who is a poetry editor, has alleged that good food is multi-layered like good poetries. For instance, moments after swallowing some fine wine that I bought from a winery in Margaret River in Perth, there was a suggestion of oak in the wine. Similarly, poems are multi-layered in their purpose to last through one serving to many readings, all the while constantly nudging our minds to look at ourselves in another way, through newer revelations.

Despite this brotherhood, evolution matters have caused both food and poetries to tread diverging paths. Eating out culture in Bhutan is now a popular trend, regardless of it turning into being a spectacularly expensive affair at the same time. Poetic flights of fancy, however, are diminishing in grandeur. Even good micro-poetries may take long periods of time to write but most readers now think poetries are written in the language of planet Bong - a nuisance to try understanding and that they are designed to complicate. The ones written with the language of the present seem to be written with throw away ingredients left in the fridge for days and have life and luster in close resemblance to that of John keats, W.B Yeats, Robert Frost and the like about as much as I resemble Jane Austen. As a friend would say, perhaps poetries too are now made in China.

Good poems and food are thematically composed with deep sentiments such as love and hope, madness and anger that create memorable moments in our lives – the reason why certain foods and poems keep ringing in our heads persuading us to return to certain dishes and poems again and again and at different stages in our lives for the purpose of comforting ourselves of who we once were and of the dreams we have dreamt. We then become mellow eaters or readers based on the art at a time with which we collide.

My sister who at one point, suffered the brunt of my eating habits is now a food lover herself but one without a victim. She eats for health which, she declares, is her road to happiness. By contrast, I bypass the pain-in-the-rear health factor and jump directly into the flavorful happiness zone. But unlike me, she prefers to collect upbeat and cheerful looking vegetables, painstakingly cut them into appropriate shapes and sizes and masterfully garnish them for color and flavor. Observing her cook could make one picture Maya Angelou meticulously collect and wash the best set of vocabularies and cook a piece of poetry that resonates across oceans and mountains and through many lifetimes...
3 Responses
  1. Mr. Chezang Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. This is simply master piece. You write great as always...keep on doing that. waiting with anticipation for your next piece!

  2. Kinga Choden Says:

    Thanks Mr. Chezang. The fact that you enjoyed this piece makes my day! :)

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