(This post is being updated as we go along our exploration of edible oils. If you’d like to share any articles, images, memories or stories to add to this page, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
From stopping at a roadside thela for a quick samosa or vada to using oil at home for tadka, puris, and other fried goods, the average Indian consumes 19 kgs of edible oil every year. This has been categorized as very unhealthy, but the story of edible oil in India runs deeper than the repercussions on our health. India has moved from being self-sufficient in edible oil production, to having edible oil account for 40% of our agricultural import bill in 2019. India today is the largest consumer and importer of palm oil, but to change this scenario, policy efforts to regain self-sufficiency in oils are likely to occur at the cost of biodiversity-rich landscapes. So while oils like rice bran are slowly making their way into the forefront, what truly is the future of oil in India?
Join us as we now explore #OilYouNeed through the lens of policy, markets, biodiversity & nutrition, and feel free to share your #Talesofतेल.
Back to the Future: Revisiting the Ghani
Many of us are familiar with Dr. K.T. Achaya’s work writing “Indian Food: A Historical Companion“, but one of his major areas of expertise and study as an oil chemist and food scientist was ofcourse on Edible Oils!
Here’s an excerpt from FAO’s website on the Ghani – a crucial tool for the extraction of edible oils
For thousands of years, fats and oils have been important in food preparation in India. Metal frying pans that are remarkably similar in design to those used today have been found in archaeological excavations of the Harappan civilization of circa 2000 BC. A number of oleaginous materials such as sesame, rape and mustard seeds and coconut were known sources of oil (Achaya, 1990). In addition, a variety of animal fats were used. However, the exact way that oil was obtained from oilseeds is uncertain.
In Sanskrit literature of about 500 BC there is a specific reference to an oil-press, although it was never described (Monier-Williams, 1899). Juices were extracted from vegetable materials as early as 1500 BC using either a mortar and pestle or a grinding stone working on a flat stone. Linguistic evidence suggests that it is from these two crushing systems that presses for both oilseeds and sugar cane developed in the form of a mortar-and-pestle arrangement powered by animals. This system Is commonly called the ghani, or the kolhu or chekku (Achaya, 1993).Ghani: A Traditional method of oil processing in india; FAO
Deep Fryers and Deep Divers: Here’s some more reading from KT Achaya’s book on Oilseeds And Oilmilling In India A Cultural And Historical Survey
Do you Remember These Oil Ad’s?
HOW HAS THE NARRATIVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
the paradox driving global trade in one food item: cooking oil
It’s unusual for a large country to develop a culinary culture divorced from local produce. That’s just the paradox driving global trade in one food item: cooking oil. Indians, who’ve always fried their parathas and dosas, are the world’s largest importer of liquid veg fat. (1/n)
— Andy Mukherjee (@andymukherjee70) August 5, 2021
Sanjeev Shankar transforms discarded cooking oil cans into a contemporary piece of art.
Via Architectural Review (1 Dec 2009)
The canopy consists of two parts: a flat upper layer made from 945 can lids roped together like a patchwork and daubed with a bright pink pigment, plus a lower section of 692 can bodies, resembling a giant honeycomb. Because the cans are quite heavy (each one weighing around 700g), the bodies are joined together with bolts.
Perforations allow light to dapple and percolate through the canopy. The jury admired the way in which the project transmuted mundane, discarded objects into a composition of authentic, rough-edged beauty, drawing on the skills of local metalworkers and the enthusiasm of the surrounding community who collected the unwanted cans.