Parsi, Parsi, kenkda khao,
Mamma bola biscuit lao,
Ek biscuit kacha,
Mamma ka peyt mein bacha.
This was the playground rhyme with which Parsi children were teased when I was but a boy. The last two lines would make more sense if one substituted ‘contraceptive pills’ for ‘biscuit’, but that would ruin the rhythm of the verse.
The first line is clear in its implication: Parsis eat crabs, pork, beef, anything. The second line associates them with a vague westernisation—calling for ‘biscuits’ instead of puris or batasa, the jeera-dotted savoury favourites my grandmother would store in glazed china jars. In these, she also stored the bhakra, the typically Parsi biscuit, and the gor-keri noo achaar, the sweetish condiment halfway between a chutney and a pickle, which she manufactured over several days in an annual gathering of the other Parsi women of the mohalla.
There were and are other totemic foods—the dhan daar machchii (white...