By Ian Williams, NBC News correspondent
Mumbai, India -- Malti Karanchandani doesn't look much like a revolutionary, but the changes she's making in her modest Mumbai kitchen represent a transformation of the Indian diet - and the impact of India's changing eating habits will be felt by all of us.
"Previously I only cooked typical Indian food, but now it's changed. Now I'm cooking different cuisines," she told me, as she stirred a bowl of pasta. Mexican and Lebanese are new favorites, but the biggest change is more meat - chicken and fish, in particular - and dairy products.
Karanchandani runs one of thousands of small catering businesses that service Mumbai's business community with lunchboxes knows as tiffins. Her business has thrived because she's adapted to the changing tastes of India's financial capital.
"People want more quantity and more quality," she says.
Her neighbor, Govind Lulla, has not been so fortunate. He's been forced to close his vegetarian kitchen. "The changing diet nowadays, that was the biggest problem," he told me. "In this area they love meat. You have to move according to the times he said," with a despondent shake of the head.
Karanchandani's tiffins are fed into a remarkable "fed-ex"-type delivery system - a five-thousand strong army of deliverymen, known as tiffinwallahs, fanning out across this vast city. They deliver 200,000 meals to hungry homes and offices on time, every day.
It's a logistical marvel, but the tiffinwallahs themselves face growing competition from an explosion of fast food outlets, Indian and Western. McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken are packed with youngsters.
India's growing middle class, estimated to be 200 million strong and growing, is eating more and demanding a more westernized diet, particularly in India's cities.
Cultural and religious factors mean that meat consumption (particularly beef) has not grown as fast as China, but consumption of poultry, eggs, milk and vegetable oils is rising sharply. India is now the world's biggest producer of milk; chicken wasn't part of the Indian diet 15 years ago, now consumption is rising by 18% a year.
This in turn is increasing India's demand for grain, for which the country is having to turn to world markets, pushing up prices.
"With a growing middle class and rising incomes, now we and our children can afford fancy food, which is putting more strain on resources," according to Usha Tuteja, the director of Delhi University's Agricultural Economics Research Centre.
Per capita output of cereals (wheat and rice) in India at present is roughly at the same level as the 1970s. And the trend towards a more westernized diet is not confined to India.
"There are roughly four billion people in the world who want to move up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock products - meat, milk, poultry," says Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute.
When earlier this year Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice pointed to changing diets in India and China as one of the causes of rising global food prices, Indian politicians bristled, blaming instead America's rush to biofuels.
Both are right. In a world of stagnant food production, it is a truism that more competition for the same food will push up prices.
Malti Karanchandani is already seeing that on her daily visits to the market. "Prices have been shooting up," she told me. "Very much high. Everything has become very much expensive" - exacerbated this year by serious flooding in parts of northern India.
She's had to hike the price of her lunchboxes from 40 to 50 rupees (US$1.00).
There is little scope for expanding cultivable land in India, according to Delhi University's Usha Tuteja. "The possibility of area expansion is very, very limited," she says. "Agriculture needs another breakthrough, you could call it another green revolution."