24 November, 2020

Enter McKhana

McDonald's is a rage. But the Udupis, the Kamats snap at its heels.

Narender Bisht
Enter McKhana
For close to five decades after Independence, we had access to only one foodstuff which bore a distinctive American cachet: popcorn. At a pinch, you could also add chewing gum. 'Fast food', a term coined in the US, gained currency in the latter half of the '50s. But its much-vaunted charms figured nowhere in our gastronomic experience.

The nearest equivalent of fast food in my part of the world were South Indian eateries. Here you could expect swift and efficient service, a clean environment and vegetarian snacks (or a thali available in 'limited' or 'unlimited' quantities). Filling, nutritious, spicy and, above all, inexpensive, this fare attracted a clientele drawn from every region and class in the country.

A serious challenge to the ubiquitous Udupi 'hotels' emerged in 1995 when fast food franchises of American provenance appeared on the Indian scene. The timing of their appearance and their instant popularity were by no means fortuitous. These were the years when our economic reforms picked up momentum, globalisation gathered...


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