The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is famous for erecting the Taj Mahal, to commemorate his love for his beloved wife , the Empress Mumtaz Mahal. However, his last years were very unhappy. Deposed by his son Aurangzeb , he was imprisoned in Agra Fort and remained there for eight years until his death in 1666. Legend has it that the cruel Aurangzeb ordered that his father be allowed only one vegetable or food of his choice and that Shah Jahan chose chickpeas. He chose them because they are versatile and can be cooked in many different ways. Even today, one of the signature dishes of North Indian cuisine is Shahjahani Daal, chickpeas cooked in a rich gravy of cream and coconut milk.
I remembered this story when I was reading about a conversation between James Beard and MFK Fisher recounted in a wonderful new book, Provence 1970. Beard was on a visit to Provence and Fisher and he had been invited to the home of Julia and Paul Child for dinner. Beard was in bad health at the time and was in fact on a strict diet. He had been asked by his doctors to name the single food he would want to subsist on if he could eat nothing else. He chose potatoes for the same reason that Shah Jahan chose chickpeas… because of their versatility. They can be mashed, fried, souffled, made into home fries, hash browns etc.
It is a great choice and I can’t think of any better. I love onions but they are hardly a vegetable that can be eaten by itself.
What would you choose if it was the only food you could eat?