Curry, Warm Milk and Red Velvet Cheesecake: ASG President Ani Ajith
Ani Ajith loves the taste of Indian cuisine, which represents his cultural heritage. Sprinkles of spice color his mind with thoughts of home. But Ajith, the Associated Student Government president, says food must be made with respect. It’s time to check out what kinds of food this Houston native respects.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Probably this food right here. This is a black-eyed peas curry with rice that my mom made. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s pretty delicious. It’s not too extreme in terms of any flavor, so it’s pretty versatile that way. It’s not the most glamorous of dishes, but it certainly gets the job done.
Photo by Astrid Goh
What’s your least favorite food?
I really don’t like raw onions. It’s an extreme flavor that I just don’t like very much. I like onions when they’re sautéed; I guess that’s okay. At that point they lose a lot of flavor.
During the typical week, what are the usual parts of your diet?
This is going to be published and my mom’s gonna hate it. Ever since coming to Northwestern, I’ve stopped eating breakfast on a regular basis but I try to get in either a bagel or cereal. Once in a while I remember to go grocery shopping and pick up some bananas. Bananas are like the ultimate nature’s to-go snack, and I love them. My diet during the rest of the day, typically, is either Subway from Norris or Potbelly’s or even stir-fry. Stir-fry would be preferable, to be honest. It’s well-spiced and filling. It reminds me a little bit of home.
What kinds of food did you eat at home?
My mom makes amazing food before she leaves for work. It’s usually something rice-based or curry. We have chapatis. It’s an Indian kind of tortilla, usually a little thinner, with some sort of vegetable mix. It’s usually all vegetarian food at home.
Photo by Astrid Goh
What’s your favorite food to eat when you’re stressed out or when there’s a lot of work?
It’s either green apples, which are great if you sprinkle a little salt on them and you chop them up. It’s an interesting combination of sweet and salty. Besides that, I love Honey Nut Cheerios late at night with warm milk. I always have my cereal with warm milk, which freaks people out.
Why warm milk?
Ever since I was a kid, my parents would just make me cereal with warm milk. Coming from India where most of the food is hot, served hot, it’s just the concept of giving your child really cold milk in the morning with cold cereal did not really appeal to them.
When you went to dining halls, what was your favorite dining hall?
The one that comes to mind immediately is the wrap at Hinman. They were good wraps. They were made fresh. I like my food to be relatively spicy and or at least flavorful. Chipotle mayo’s like the closest you’re going to get to Indian food without Indian food.
Given the kinds of food served at the dining halls, what things can nuCuisine do to improve the quality of food, or what things have they already done to do that?
I was actually just at an event where nuCuisine was showing off the different options that they can cater. They’ve really, really expanded the breadth and depth of their food. When I first came to campus, the Indian food was just “Indian food.” They would use base materials like pita bread and falafel. They would repurpose it for Indian food. One, it’s not really appropriate, in my head. Food is something that you gotta respect when you make it. It’s part of a culture. This year they have started an Indian food station downstairs here in Willie’s Food Court. They’ve made significant strides towards being more authentic.
Photo by Astrid Goh
What’s your favorite restaurant in the Evanston and Chicago area?
I think Joy Yee’s does a great job. The portions are great. The service is great. Down on Devon Street, which is known for its kind of international cuisines, there’s a place called Sabri Nihari. They have phenomenal ambience and great service and amazing food.
What was your favorite restaurant back home?
There’s a place called the Great W’kana Cafe. It’s an Indian restaurant. On the fast food side, Scholtzsky’s. It’s just a sandwich place. It’s a chain.
One food to describes your personality, and why?
I think that red velvet cheesecake is my jam. Cheesecake, it’s a little indulgent, and I can be little indulgent.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.
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