|Naan from: Google Images|
Steingarten concedes that South Asia is "the subcontinent that possesses the most magnificent collection of wheat breads on Earth, with the possible exception of France" but dismisses India because although Madhur Jaffrey claims Indians have had noodles since 4000 BCE "they must have gotten tired of them." I pulled my trusty World Vegetarian cookbook off the shelf to see: could there possibly be Indian noodles? Unfortunately Jaffrey, the rani (queen) of Indian cooking, didn't have a history section. There were plenty of noodle recipes but they all had Thai spices and coconut milk. Ah, yes, "world vegetarian" cooking. Not Indian.
I contemplate the conundrum "noodles or naan, naan or noodles" as I lunch at Flavors of India, a restaurant on Park Street in Alameda that currently features my latest food crush: a paneer wrap. Yes, Indian purists, this is not Indian food. It's an American bastardization. But what a bastardization it is! Cool cucumbers, chunks of ripe tomato, and rich squares of paneer all wrapped up in a warm, fluffy naan. If heaven had a taste, this very well might be it. Coupled with a warm cup of chai: wow. The afternoon was looking up.
Noodles are a lovely staple. A warm plate of noodles on a cold day or pasta tossed with fresh vegetables and basil in the summer is satisfying. But pasta has nothing on naan. I love my roti and paratha for breakfast can be a fabulous start to the day. But admit it: the best part of any Indian meal is definitely naan.
Noodles are great, noodles are good... but if we're talking about world peace than we should be talking about naan. Steingarten states that he could live on a diet of noodles and fried rice. I could live on a diet of naan and chai, perhaps with a little tomato soup thrown in for variety. (Do they put clarified ghee in tomato soup? Crack? Something in there is totally addictive.)
Which brings me to my only quibble with Vogue magazine itself- they only feature celebrity interviews on their website, so I can't give you a link to the article about the pressing issue of noodles and world peace. You'll have to take my word for it- or get a copy of Vogue. And if you do go looking for a copy of Vogue, check and see if they have Vogue India. I have found one store in the East Bay that carries it (the name of said store is a closely guarded trade secret) and they haven't had a new Vogue India in three months. But don't worry- as soon as they do you'll all be the first to know!