“Where can I find Avocado other than Agha’s Supermarket?”
“Who can make me a character cake for my daughter’s birthday?”
“It’s 2am and I’m hungry — what should I eat?”
These questions are just a fraction of the thousands of posts on Karachi Food Diary (KFD), a Facebook page where food lovers meet. With over 8,000 members and an average of 500 posts and comments per day, it is no doubt that the 14-month-old venture is a must-visit page for anyone who is serious about food. From restaurant owners and stay-at-home moms who love to bake, to burger aficionados, this online food street is the place to whisper sweet nothings about cravings, complications and new beginnings.
“I’ve always been passionate about food,” says 35-year-old foodie Habib Paracha, the founder of KFD. Paracha says that the forum was created as a reaction to the excess of biased food forums on Facebook, where critique is not always ingenuous.
A fan of sea urchins, oysters and sushi, Paracha says his love for food is immeasurable. The basic objective behind KFD is to inform foodies about new eateries in the city, as well as provide unbiased food reviews. While members of KFD should be over 18, the average age of visitors seems to be 28 and above.
“They have to be mature enough to handle it,” Paracha explains, referring to the strict policy of the page: don’t discuss anything other than food. “One has to be fair. If they talk about other things, then I either send them a private message or delete them altogether.”
If you’re wondering what monetary incentive Paracha derives from KFD, you should know that the forum is a free service — he makes no extra cash from the project. “There are no financial services involved,” he says. “If I was getting any money from food establishments, then it would take away my unbiased review for sure.” He asserts that the forum’s “no money, no favours” policy is upheld by him personally as well.
A double major in Finance and Operations Management from Boston University, Paracha’s innate passion for food surfaced when he moved to the US in 1996. “I have always been very picky — I don’t like to indulge in fatty foods,” he says. “After I moved to the US, my love for food only increased.”
With an unfathomable love for gourmet food, Paracha moved back to Pakistan four years later only to realise that there were no upscale restaurants in sight, except for one, in his opinion. “Café Flo was the only one,” he sighs, adding that although he fancied food, there were no fancy restaurants in town where one could dine in or get take-out. “BBC Food was also taken off air for no good reason,” he adds with remorse. He put his hopes and trust in Google. “Google recipes for anything and you will find it online,” he says, elaborating on his culinary skill set — exotic food, Mediterranean-European delights and Beef in Black Bean Sauce. As he sees it, however, some people just aren’t good cooks. “Some people fail miserably. But I’m extremely detail-oriented — I’m just not satisfied,” he says, adding that he is a perfectionist. “I keep doing it over and over till I get the best results.”
Paracha works full-time in the family business of sugar, agriculture and coal mining, and feels it’s time to cultivate his own high-quality vegetables. “I want to grow my own specialty vegetables, like red bell peppers, and supply them to the local market,” he says with optimism.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2013.
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