The Bombay Palace All-You-Can-Eat Buffet: A Postcolonial Perspective.
BY Pasha Malla
This classic starter makes its predictable appearance at the head of the buffet table, toned down, conforming to limited Western tolerances of “spiciness.” Tikka is the ultimate semi-exoticized Other: a universally common foodstuff (chicken) transmogrified into something sufficiently foreign (tikka), satiating the colonial palate while not overwhelming it. Indian food at its most tepid and obsequious.
A decidedly light-brown crust suggests the hierarchies of caste — the darker, burnt samosas surely having been discarded. Here is the Colonial Gaze in action: the samosas are looked upon but never afforded the opportunity to look back, effectively evaluated according to Western standards of “goodness.” The dipping of these things into ketchup is particularly revolting.
A classic example of hybridity from the Contact Zone: a traditional, North Indian meat, suppressed by the dominant power structure, and subsequently anglicized by an absurd chutney-based sauce. Honor Gandhi — or, to a lesser extent, Ben Kingsley as Gandhi — and starve yourself rather than dine on this filth.
Stripped of its proper Hindi name, “Butter Chicken” is a classic example of lingual control, subjugation and cultural displacement. Refer to this only as Murg Makhani. Rail against colonial oppression.
Conversely, here the co-opting of Hindi supplants the native voice. Robbed of their own language, the colonized people allow themselves to be defined by Western terms, furthering their plight as disenfranchised victims. Call this Peas and Cheese, and eat it with a nice steak. With Krishna as my witness, I swear we will not be pinned under the heel of imperialism any longer.
The act of eating rice, for the colonizer, is one of appropriation: (s)he is effectively consuming h(er)/[is] own approximation of Indian identity. The mere inclusion of rice is a laughable attempt at reinforcing South Asian stereotypes. And thusly I laugh at you, bastard colonial oppressors! Ha! Ha!
The Buffet as Orientalist Discourse
Consider the buffet itself as an extension of that tragic scene in The Temple of Doom in which a horde of turbaned Indians are depicted as barbarians, feasting on monkey brains. They are once again mocking us, my glorious brown brethren. But fear not: triumph is at hand. Pity the white man for his ignorance — then, when he’s going up for seconds, smack him in the kidneys with a cricket bat! Those sweet, delicious kidneys…
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