Today, I received a message from Chitra V Ramani, Deputy City Editor of The Hindu, Bengaluru, asking “Have you seen this?”, with this photo attached:
‘Maggi in Soup Over Excess Lead, MSG’, it read. Some Maggi samples collected in Uttar Pradesh have been found to have 17 parts per million lead (the permissible limit is 0.01 ppm), and have also found added monosodium glutamate. Now the Lucknow FSDA (Food Safety and Drug Administration) is trying to cancel Maggi’s license and get Maggi samples from all over the country checked.
My question is, what’s the big deal? Alright, let’s say Maggi has lead and MSG. MSG is addictive and it makes you dumb. Lead can kill. Understandable. What if the tests are false and Maggi doesn’t have lead or MSG? Does that make Maggi good?
I have a Maggi story. Do you? I’m sure you do, everyone does. That’s how famous it was. Or is. I’m not sure.
The first time I cooked Maggi, I ended up burning it. And then eating it, because, well, it was Maggi after all. This hasn’t only happened to me – it runs in the family. Some others have burnt Maggi as well, so I can blame that on my genes.
Maggi’s Indian connection runs deep – it was born the same year we got Independence from British rule. For some years in my childhood, Maggi was a go-to snack when there was nothing else available at home, or when amma wasn’t around to cook us anything else and we were unwilling to wait for a few minutes for her to come.
2-minute noodles! Kids eat it all the time. Bachelors and bachelorettes swear by it – I know a number of my college mates did. “Chai aur Maggi bana doonga, aur kuch nahin aata”. Parents indulge in it with their kids. There are recipes and variations of recipes made with Maggi. In India, you don’t talk about noodles. You talk about Maggi.
Michael Snyder, in an article about how Maggi became India’s favourite comfort food, writes, ‘Maggi used to belong to the working woman and her brood of happy, hungry children (who in the early commercials are smiling aggressively and chanting for “Maggi Maggi Maggi” with frightening vehemence); today it is the staple of bachelors, college kids, and young professionals. They’re the Maggi kids all grown up. An acquaintance of mine working in an advertising firm recently tweeted: “If post 7 PM you walk into an ad agency and it doesn’t smell of Maggi you have probably not walked into an ad agency.”’
What’s the big deal, anyway?
Preservatives, artificial flavours, coloring agents, other chemicals – I haven’t read the list of ingredients on the packet, but I’m sure some of these are there. I don’t need to tell you what they do.
Refined Wheat Noodles. This tells me three things: Processed. Grain-based. Wheat-based.
It’s highly processed. have you noticed how a lot of the processed food we eat is termed ‘refined’? ‘Refined’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? What it actually means is something a lot worse, unfortunately. Anyway, Maggi has largely switched to whole wheat noodles today, so let’s move on.
Our race began getting into health issues on a large scale in the Neolithic era, about 12,000 years ago, incidentally, when we shifted from a fruit-based diet to a grain-based diet. Anemia, tooth decay, infectious diseases – our average height even reduced by 4 inches. Enough said.
Wheat. You must already be well-educated about how half of America is now allergic to it. If not, watch the documentary Wheatlessness. Did you know wheat is addictive? Neither did I, until a few years back.
Worse than all these is the fact that it is just blank calories dressed up to taste like something amazing.
The fact that almost the entire country has fallen into its trap, to such an extent that people will defend it almost with their lives.
The fact that you can find Maggi in every locality of every city and every market in every village in the country from the Himalayas to the desert to the coastal lines of India, but you’d be hard pressed to find an orange or a bunch of grapes to eat.
The problem isn’t Maggi. If not Maggi, we’d obsess about a Boogie or a Woogie. The problem is, you think you like it. I challenge you – right now, go buy a packet of Maggi and a ripe mango. Cook the maggi in whatever way you want. Close you eyes, put a mouthful of Maggi in your mouth, chew it and enjoy the taste for as long as you can. Now bite into the mango and enjoy the taste for as long as you can. See the difference?
That’s what I’m talking about.
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