The West Has “Discovered” Jackfruit. How Much Longer Before it Goes the Coconut Oil Way?


The West Has “Discovered” Jackfruit. How Much Longer Before it Goes the Coconut Oil Way?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Dear Jackfruit,

I am sorry for the loss of your reputation as an “ugly, smelly, unfarmed, unharvested pest-plant native to India”. You are no longer the vegetable some people eat because they have nothing better to eat. The Brits have found you. Unlike previous centuries when they had to invade 90 per cent of the world’s countries for their spices and still make bland food, this time around they found you nestled inside a wrap at Starbucks. And you know naa, what happens when you are discovered by a white saviour who has only had Brussel sprouts, parsnips, and leeks for centuries? You are promptly appropriated by them and the vegans tired of milking almonds for breakfast, and hailed as the next Pinterest sensation.

Like Columbus, who thought he had discovered the Indies when he landed in America, you are also mistaken for pork by vegans. I don’t blame them. I attribute this loss of common sense to a diet rich in misplaced righteousness. But let’s admit in secret, you’re as fibrous and take as long to cook. And just like meats, you have this annoying habit of getting stuck in between our molars, expecting an army of toothpicks to come and rescue you.

I know you’d rather remain hidden between our teeth than be passed off as fake pork by ignorant goras. The crafty Bongs recognised your potential long ago and lovingly called you gaachh pantha (lamb that grows on trees). Dammit, we’ve always cherished you for your meaty texture! We relished you in rich curries, we’ve had stir-fried versions of you slathered with masalas. We’ve converted you to crisp chips, and suffered from terrible loosies when we had too many of you in your ripe glory.

So, I totally understand why you are baffled by this sudden attention as the “new superfood the Western world has unearthed”, when you’ve been a part of the Asian cuisine for long. You even find a mention in Ibn Battuta’s travelogues from the 12th century, a time when the English were wandering in jungles, hoping to catch their next meal with the sun shining on their hairy asses. They have now evolved into a race that relishes pork pies – a weird mixture of salt and terrible meat – all wrapped up in a terrible slimy jelly.

Maybe it’s the steady diet of pork pies and Haggis that has kept the lazy, culturally uninformed bullshit popularly known as colonial mindset as alive as the cockroach under our beds. The British are still under the impression that anything they have not eaten does not exist. A columnist for the Guardian, a particularly chronic patient of this condition, even had the audacity to call you a squishy mealy nothing. Since her ignorance knows no bounds, she goes on to add, the best way to experience a pulled-jackfruit burger with slaw and mayo is to look at a picture of it, then eat something else.

Your humiliation doesn’t end here. Your white saviour will do unimaginable things to you. They’ll strip you of your uniqueness and try to pass you off as a burger patty, meatballs, or a crab cake. You will find yourself as a topping on pizzas smothered with sauces. Maybe someone will even try to cover you with single-origin chocolate and claim you are the best thing evaah!

And Jackfruit, don’t you worry I have already planned your revenge.

Oh, is that you howling from underneath the heap of a farrago of misinterpretations and culinary disasters? Please accept my condolences. You will now be haunting the aisles of Whole Foods in some fancy-ass organic avatar and your only aim in life will be to transform smelly, rotting human insides into a magical place with just one bite. While you are at the store waiting for some hipster to grab you, don’t forget to say hi to turmeric latte and exchange a few pleasantries with moringa. You are about to replace her as the next best thing to have happened to the white gut. Shed a few tears for coconut oil in the discounted shelf that everyone shuns. Look at her closely, she’s your future. A few years ago, she was bae for the health-obsessed millennial and would often find herself inside a mug with coffee, sputtering “what the fuck!” She was the miracle in a bottle that everyone was glugging in copious quantities until a Harvard professor accused her of being pure poison. Since the millennial is incapable of wondering how Asian communities with more coconut oil than blood in their body are still thriving, she now lies discarded, forgotten like a yesteryear filmstar, grieving for her lost glory.

One of these days I will sit you down and tell you about the promiscuous western palate, flitting from one miracle superfood to another, hoping for a quickie that’ll cure them of their many health paranoias. Their lust story lasts as long as the Brexit euphoria. The object of their lust, they claim to have discovered from obscurity, is invariably a much-used ingredient in Asian kitchens. So while the unwashed classes are having a good laugh at their expense, the white hipster is standing in Vriksha asana, soaking in the yellow goodness of turmeric latte. He’ll then sink his teeth into a pulled jackfruit burger and claim instant rejuvenation.

Your dude bro, parwal (wax gourd) is already tapping his fingers with impatience. I’ve even overheard him say, what does kathhal have that I don’t? I am as seedy as him and look rather cute.

Chill bro. Your time will come when some vegan high on cauliflower puree will mistake you for a frog and insist you taste just like one.

And Jackfruit, don’t you worry I have already planned your revenge. I am going to re-introduce asparagus, an old favourite of the English, to the eastern palate as the ugly duckling that has won the lottery. I will title my article, “Asparagus is tasteless bullshit – how can I make it taste delicious at home?”  

It’s pretty simple. Just marinate it in chilli powder, garam masala, amchur powder, then coat it with gram flour and deep fry it. If you shut your eyes real tight while having them, you might even mistake it for grass.