From economictimes.indiatimes.com: The host was a dedicated gourmet and occasional food writer. He had called to invite me for a dinner in honour of a celebrated chef visiting from the USA. I said I’d love to come and hoped it was OK if I brought my boyfriend. There was a split-second silence before he replied hastily, “Yes, of course!” But when we arrived he was evidently uncomfortable, barely talking to us and fussing around. So, imagine how his discomfort levels must have soared when the American chef landed up — with his boyfriend! It was more amusing than awkward, but hopefully such moments will become rarer as being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) becomes just something routine. That was the promise in last week’s wonderful Supreme Court judgment. Food will help it happen. The sector has always attracted LGBT people, and among the winning petitioners in the Supreme Court were chef Ritu Dalmia and hotelier Aman Nath. I know many LGBT people working in different areas of the food business. Navi Mumbai has the Third Eye café which is run by transgenders. In her book The Suriani Kitchen Lathika George writes about Missy, an Anglo-Indian lady who was famous in the Syrian-Christian community for her cooking skills. Families would hire her to cook for special occasions, during which she stayed in the local convent, since she was a devout Christian.
But one night a nun spied through her door and saw her hurriedly pulling on a dress — too late, to conceal that she was really transgender. Missy’s memory survives in her recipes which George passes on, like Molaga Chertha Mooriyerchi Chops, steaks marinated in tamarind, jaggery and pepper. Restaurants have served as meeting places for LGBT people who have problems meeting in homes or other spaces. There were so many cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants where we met over the 18 years it took to fight the case. The GayBombay support group started off meeting at McDonalds. Once, just before Mumbai’s first Pride March, my boyfriend and I had dinner in a seafood restaurant while we moaned about the last-minute problems the police were throwing at us. Suddenly one of the waiters asked if we were talking about “that event happening tomorrow.” It was evident he knew about it, and he told us, “It’s a very good thing you are doing.” At that frustrating moment, this unexpected support felt great (and the squid butter garlic he gave us was pretty good too). After the verdict came, some bakeries and cafes tweeted pictures of celebratory rainbow cakes. It was a nice gesture, even though I find the idea of all the food colouring that goes in them slightly off-putting. I prefer the sandwiches that a friend invented for the café chain he worked at: lettuce, gouda, basil and tomato. Most people ate these LGBT sandwiches without realising anything. But in case anyone asked, my friend trained the staff how to explain it. It was normalisation, of sorts, one bite at a time.