#60 – Plates to Protests, Honeygate, Killer Spices and More

Hi there!

Compliments of the season.

We’ve been talking about 2021 as if at the stroke of midnight on the 31st the world will magically change and become “normal” again.

But if we take a long hard look, the issues within our food system (even before 2020) were never “normal”.

If anything this year has amplified cracks and we’ve got an opportunity to take a closer look and mend and make better choices.

Food is power. And so, more power to you in 2021. More power towards building a better food system, together.

Stay Curious.
Elizabeth & Anusha

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Photo by hue12 photography on Unsplash

Dangerous spices: why India’s cooking powders pose a risk of lead poisoning

The Guardian

Over a three-month period, Mazumdar tested some of the country’s most popular spices — chilli, cumin, curry powder, garam masala and chat masala. She tested 52 samples of turmeric, assessing branded and packaged varieties, as well as loose powders sold by street vendors in Kolkata.

She found lead in all of them.

Heavy Metal Curry

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Illustration: Akila Weerasinghe/Himal Southasian

From Pleasure to Protest

Himal Southasian

Vidya Balachander writes on how food helps us connect, exhibit power and protest.

Food Revolution

Update: Understanding the Farm Bill

The recent farm bills passed namely Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aka raised protests from the opposition and the farming community.

What exactly does the Farm Bill address? Why are farmers protesting laws that politicians claim will liberate them? What are the economic arguments being made? We covered some last week, but this is not a single issue issue.

Here are some more perspectives:

📰Three ways to understand the massive farmer protests taking on Modi in Delhi
The Political Fix

❌’The law related to APMCs is a death warrant’
People’s Archive of Rural India

💵Why Agriculture Shouldn’t Be Left to Free
News Click

👨‍🌾Agrarian Crisis Is a Social Crisis Now
Janata Weekly

☘How China reformed its agriculture and reduced poverty
Indian Express

🥛Farmers’ stir lays bare unjust economic policy
The Tribune

♥Hearth to Heart: Pinnis, makki ki rotis and sarson da saag from back home in Punjab warm up the protesting farmers in Delhi
Gaon Connection

If you prefer watching and listening to reading, watch this entire video (from Sep 2020) where Faye D’Souza talks to P Sainath about the farm bills and the protests.

These resources might not be the be all and end all of the information. Watch closely as talks are in progress to stay updated. Follow us on Instagram for more recent updates.


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Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) investigates the business of adulteration of honey in India

India has been using honey for thousands of years. And right when it needed it the most — Covid season — CSE accused most top brands including Dabur and Patanjali of adulterating. (The Print)

Here’s Down To Earths publication of the investigation download here
& CSE’s laboratory results of the honey testing

👩🏾‍🌾Women in Ag💪🏾

“She paused, exasperated by the midday sun in Vizianagaram. But remained bent over. She knew she would resume work in moments — in that very posture.”

Visible Work, Invisible Women — A lifetime bending
People’s Archive of Rural India

In photos: Snapshots of India’s women farmers, who shoulder the burden as men work in cities

But increasingly, women in many parts of rural India are the ones working on the farms. As falling productivity and the fragmentation of land over generations makes farming increasingly unviable, men are migrating to cities in search of work. Their wives and sisters keep their farms going.


Indian farm widows join protests against agriculture reforms

“If these black laws come, more farmers will go deeper into debt,” said 40-year-old Harshdeep Kaur, a widow from Punjab state, at one protest site on the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi.

“More mothers and sisters will become widows like me.”

Hindustan Times

🍾A history of Thums up and Indian cola wars

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For over 35 years, Thums up ruled the Indian soft drink market. This iconic brand overcame international brands like Pepsi & Coke, local brands like Campa Cola & even a brand launched by Indian government: Double 7

Azhar Jafri’s write this super interesting thread on the history of Thums up and Indian cola wars.

One more pinch of nostalgia

🍬The Forgotten Maharashtra Village That Gave Birth to India’s Favourite Candies

My friends and I would eagerly wait for our ‘pipper’ (candy in Gujarati) uncle so that we could gorge on the bright yellow and orange candies packed in translucent wrappers.

by Gopi Karelia The Better India

👅Delhi’s Kebabs: The Taste of Memory

“He told me how Dilliwaalas had “garam-khoon” or “hot-blood”, which he suspected was because of sitting next to the tandoors for so long, even in the summer heat.”

by Sharanya Deepak Mangal Media

🥑In other news

🥑Pinch of irony: As Indian restaurants embrace home food, home cooks are recreating restaurant dishes Scroll.in

🥑FSSAI overhauls labelling, display norms; makes display of expiry date mandatory The Hindu Business Line

🥑Seaweed: The world’s fastest-growing source of food BBC Future Planet

🥑Despite being self-sufficient in agricultural production, India’s hunger levels are alarming The Hindu

🥑Lab-grown meat: Cleared in Singapore, an emerging alternative worldwide Indian Express

🥑 A new “food biography” of India examines how the stunning diversity of our culinary traditions came to be Indian Express

🥑Investing in the Future of Food: Food-tech investments target productivity, quality & sustainability Food Navigator

Nature {in focus}

📽Rearing Giants

With insects increasingly being explored as an important source of protein to substitute red meat, this film (by Green Hub Fellows, Thejavikho Chase & Dipen Rangmang) examines the role of the Giant Hornet, reared for consumption in the hills of Nagaland.

♒The link between Bengaluru’s lakes, livelihoods and local memories

“The fish died, then the soppus either wilted away or were too polluted to be eaten,” she says.

by Mohit M. Rao

🌳The Woods

“He knew every inch of the forest. He saw himself as its protector.”

by Mohit M. Rao

Food, Culture, & History

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For a few days in 1995, many Indians believed a religious idol had developed a lifelike ability to drink milk. FiftyTwo

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This edible silver garnish has long added bling to South Asian cuisine. Atlas Obscura

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Despite everything, it’s been a hell of a year for cookbooks. Here are ten of the best. The New Yorker

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At this time of a global nutritional crisis, “GUR PRASAD: The Grace of Food” celebrates India’s rich living tradition of food sharing in Punjab. Culture Unplugged

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Feelings of emptiness are normal in times of stress and uncertainty. But isn’t cooking supposed to be a balm? The New Yorker

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From Goan Catholics to East Indians and the Naga Christians, here’s your lowdown on how diverse groups across the country bring in the year-end festival Vogue

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