Pizza Frenzy

Fast food culture is growing fast in Kashmir with young people preferring pizzas, burgers and other junk food to traditional foods. Khurram Rasool tracks the trend.

cofeeKashmir’s famous cuisine and traditional food is steadily losing its charm. Youth in the valley are increasingly getting obsessed with readily available junk food.

The eating habits of urban masses have changed in every period in Kashmir.From usual traditional foods to junk-food and foreign menus, the youngsters have been transforming their food habits. Among the variety of the mouth–watering delicacies, pizza is one of the most enjoyed and relished eatable by the local youngsters.

“Pizza is a worldwide favorite fast-food. Myriad varieties and innovative ways of preparation gives it a great appeal. It tastes really delicious, ”says Uzma Baba, a young college student and a pizza lover.

Flanked by her friends, Sana Mir, another college girl,  echoes similar views. “I just love having pizzas and burgers. The presentation is so good that it lures you to eat it, ” says Mir. “In fact, I prefer to have a burger or sandwich for my lunch, rather than rice or roti, because it is tastier and is easily available.”

Owing to the rising demand for pizzas, Smokin’ Joe’s, one of the leading outlets that makes and sells pizzas, opened its first joint in Srinagar in May 2008. Since its opening, the pizza joint has become extremely popular among local residents and tourists.

“On an average,125 to 150 customers visit this pizza joint every day, “says Iqbal Wani, owner and master franchisee in Kashmir for Smokin Joe’s.
Pizza, an Italian food-form is fast emerging as a trend in urban Kashmiri society. In the recent past, Kashmiri restaurants barely knew about pizza and the idea of Pizzeria was completely out of scene. However, with the growing number of outlets like Smokin Joe’s, Coffea Arabica, CRL and Hatrick, the valley youth are finding fast food more appetizing and easily accessible.

Meanwhile, the month of Ramadan somehow did not hamper the production at Smokin Joe’s. “Surprisingly the business has always been good and Ramadan is no exception. We have customers who book their orders for Iftaar. Some of them visit the outlet in the late evenings. Besides, we have non-Muslim customers too,” says Wani.

“The customer response has been over whelming till now, college students are the most frequent visitors.We also planto open more outlets at tourist spots like Pahalgam and Gulmarg,” says Wani.

Despite being a very novel food to Kashmir, pizza is becoming an integral part of almost every hangout party here.Sahil Ahmed, a regular customer at Coffee Robusta Lounge (CRL) says,“Whenever we have a get-together party, pizza has to be there on the table. One large pizza is enough to satisfy at least four hungry people and the taste is really good”.

Furthermore, there has been a great demand for McDonalds and KFC in Kashmir for quite some time now.

“It’s high timeKashmir has a McDonalds outlet,” says Farah Amin, a teenager.  A group of youngsters have even created a page on social networking site Facebook as, ‘We want McDonalds, Domino’s and KFC in Kashmir’. Flooded with numerous wall-posts, the page has 155 ‘likes’ by the fast-food admirers across Kashmir.

Interestingly, some people ask their relatives, who are on a visit to valley toget these McDonald food items packed from the outlets at the Delhi airport.
“Recently my sister who stays in Saudi Arabia, was on a visit to Kashmir. I requested her to get a Mc alootikki and KFC chicken wings from Delhi airport food joint,”saysSaba Javaid, a college student.

Few years ago, a restaurant named Mac Donalds came up in HazuriBagh locality of Srinagar city. The local people mistakenly considered it as the McDonalds outlet. It was only after a proper inquiry that it was revealed the restaurant was a fake version of McDonalds.  In addition to this,Hat Trick foods has come up with its separate Pizza Hut, under the name of the famous ‘Pizza hut’, that offers its customers a wide range of pizzas with different flavors and toppings.

However, the changing food habits of youth can prove costly in the long run. As teens become more independent in their food choices, they tend to make the wrong choices;even those who have been brought up eating healthy.

Dr Zahida Shah, Managing Director, Mother Care clinic and Clinical Exercise Specialist says that the change in the eating habits of youth is not just limited to Kashmir but it is global.

“The food- habits have changed altogether. With the emergence of different food joints across the valley, the concept of healthy food has gone away,” says DrShah.

Experts say that more intakes of junk and fast food can result in multiple health problems. Obesity, one of the prime ramifications of fast food culture has seen a prominent rise in this decade in the valley. “The increased consumption of fast food can lead to obesity, multiple deficiencies, diabetes, hypertension and PCOD (poly cystic ovarian diseases) among females”, adds Dr Shah.

The trend of eating outhas become a craze among the youth.  Teens are seen dotting the fast food restaurants. This tends to be because of school, sports and work schedules overlapping regular meal times. Dr Shah says, “One common denominator for getting teens to eat healthier and avoid these bad food habits is the activerole of parents especially mothers in providing healthy food. When you get in the habit of making these foods more readily available to your teen, you will see a change in their eating habits.”

Nowadays, youngsters with fast-food appetite have a tendency to skip their breakfast. According to the American Dietetic Association, more than half of male teens and more than two-thirds of female teens do not eat breakfast on a regular basis due to consumption of fast food items.
Hina, a junior dietician at SKIMS says, “People who tend to eat too much fat and snack foods that are categorized in the ‘other’ food group and are likely to skip their breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day”.

On the contrary, fast food stuffhas completely conquered the menus of restaurants in Kashmir. Besides the big eating places like Hat Trick, Smokin’ Joe’s and CRL, there are numerouslocal restaurants that have also started making pizzas and other such food items for their customers. A local waiter at CRL says, “Now Kashmiri urban food is incomplete without the inclusion of pizza, sandwich and burger.”

“What is important is not the competition between traditional and modern eateries, but increasing usage of fast- food items. More and more fast-food is entering the food market now, as it is hugely demanded,” says Hina. She says thatknowingly or unknowingly people don’t care about how unhealthy food they are eating. “They just like it for how good it tastes.”

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