#67 – Cookbooks, Decentralizing Digital, a Spot of Tea and More


Curry has dominated Indian culinary discourse in most international food circles. So naturally, when an Instagram blogger posted a video asking to cancel curry, it sparked debate. 

In India, recently a clothing company released a series of images for their “Onam Collection”. One of them featured models clad in an all-white ensemble eating an Onam Sadya which instead of the traditional Onam banquet (rice, olan, theeyal, avial to name a few) contained a mish-mash of mostly “South-Indian” dishes like idli, dosa etc. which are far away from what’s eaten in a standard Onam fare. 

Needless to say, the brand took it down after all the flak they received.
Understanding of culinary heritages of different cultures is not an easy task. It requires effort and care, with healthy doses of curiosity. Trying to standardize or pick representational dishes, is a futile effort. 

Let’s not forget that the celebration of certain festivals on a larger scale is in itself a case of suppression of different castes. 

Before we try to reclaim Indian Food from the western gaze or “decolonise” food, we should respect each other’s cuisines, and protect them from our own nazar. 

On that note, here’s your monthly reminder:
There’s no Indian Food. 

Stay curious, 
Anusha & Elizabeth

P.S. — Shout out to Joanna Lobo (It’s All Write) who joined us in this newsletter discussion. In these sessions we sort through all the news we’ve collected in the month and discuss and debate these happenings in the food system. If you’d like to join us in next months Khabar session, hit us up!

P.P.S — Recent editions of It’s All Write have some really interesting interviews and advice on food writing. Check it out!

Cookbooking Our Way Through Colonial Affairs

In the past week we’ve come across stories of two cookbooks that go beyond cuisine. They tell us about community, identity, culture and reflect upon a particular space in time. Youlendree Appasamy’s writing on the South African cookbook Indian Delights takes us back to the time of apartheid while Chinese Protest Recipes is much closer in time, that calls for “an exchange of cultural knowledge produced and perfected with patience, practice, and love.”

More than recipes, ingredients or famous chefs, these cookbooks like many others are projects of resistance and resilience.

Indian Delights

Chinese Protest Recipes

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Who Feeds Us?
Who Feeds Those Who Feed Us?

🍊Expand food basket under PDS, says WHO scientist
The Hindu
“The current basket is taking care of food insecurity by providing only cereals. Nutritional security has a big gap in the current system. We need to fill it with millets, pulses, fruits, vegetables and animal proteins. We have to think about policy intervention, which can make these food baskets affordable to people. They can access which is currently sub-optimal,”

🍎A New Calculation for the Beneficiaries of India’s Food Security Act
The Wire
Research conducted by Azim Premji University estimated that 23 crore additional persons slipped below the poverty line (defined by the national floor minimum wage of Rs 375 a day) due to the pandemic. An analysis by Pew Research Centre estimated that the number of poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) may have increased by 7.5 crore.

🍉Indian Women’s Nutrition Suffered during COVID-19 Lockdown
TCI Cornell
They found that food expenditures significantly declined during the lockdown, especially in less developed districts. Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents reported having less food, while 95 percent said they consumed fewer types of food. The largest drop in food expenditures was for micronutrient-rich fresh and dried fruits, as well as animal products such as meat, fish, and eggs.

🍋How to avoid a catastrophe when Covid 19 has complicated the agricultural problem in India?
Global Bihari
As news spreads that a third wave is likely to come, many farmers are likely to abandon farming. This would be the greatest danger facing since independence. To avoid such a catastrophe, it is necessary to quickly develop a complete solution that gives farmers confidence to continue farming.

Nutrition Unpacked:

Last year we participated as local hosts in a global research initiative by the Future Food Institute to understand what nutrition meals to different people across the world.
Read the report here

Slippery Slope

“..the deliberate discrediting of local, cold-pressed filtered oil as adulterated — and dangerous — destroyed the self-sufficiency of the early 1990s”
Read the entire thread here.

As Edible Oil prices rise, the conversations get slipperier.

🌴Ethical Consumer, a British political action research group shared it’s main criticisms of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and explained its role in Ethical Consumer’s own palm oil rating.
RSPO criticisms investigated

🌾Using small rice fields to grow palm trees can be a viable alternative to dismantling forests and grasslands, says a new study.
How India can expand palm oil cultivation while still preserving biodiversity

India generates 3 million metric tonnes of ‘used cooking oil’. As per the rule, all food business operators must discard and dispose of this oil in a traceable manner to biodiesel producers. However, only a fraction of it goes for biodiesel production. The rest goes back to the food chain via roadside eateries. Policy loopholes & lack of political will to be blamed:

Good Seeds, Bad Seeds.

True to their name, Pokkali varieties grow up to two meters. It’s their ability to stand tall above brackish waters that has piqued the world’s interest in how they may be a uniquely climate-adaptive food.
Food for a Future Planet
by Sharmila Vaidyanathan

Governments are responsible to protect consumers and stop the spread of unapproved seed varieties and test their toxicity and carcinogenity.
Biodiversity and Samosas: Poisoned Together?
by Indra Shekhar Singh

This month we’ve come across some great reads in some of our favourite newsletters. Take a look!
Good Food Jobs: From YouTube to Organic Sugarcane
Deep Fry: Why I can’t (and don’t want to) cook

On Eating Meat

Is it a Case of ‘Meat-versus-Planet’? Lessons for the Global South
Chicken prices to the moon

As independent creators, a lot of our time, love, and effort goes into making Edible Issues come to life. If you like our work, support us by buying us a coffee! Or a bisi bisi dose. Just click on the image to find more!

Working with rural communities in Karnataka, India, Decentralising Digital is an ongoing research project seeking to co-create new narratives for decentralised digital futures.

Check out the book and learn more about the project here.

Independence Day might be over but you can still donate to The Bombay Canteen’s 2021 Daawat in support of the Naandi foundation.

What gives people comfort, what is the history of a local dish or its ingredients? How has it crossed borders and limitations of imaginations? How has it brought people together, or made a traveller feel at home?
Click on the banana leaf to visit the exhibition at MAP.

Food & Culture

The fermented ‘hilsa’ nobody talks about

Behind Recipes of Convenience is a Story of Sacrifice

Adda: The secret to Bengali conviviality

What’s the link between food and the evil eye?

How British Tea Became Indian Chai
The Goya Journal

How sabudana went from wartime staple to one of India’s favourite fasting foods
CNT Traveler India

The Dal Directory

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