Book Review: Curried Cultures by Krishnendu Ray,‎ Tulasi Srinivas

Book Name: Curried Cultures

Authors: Krishnendu Ray,‎ Tulasi Srinivas

Publisher: Aleph

Rating: 4.7/5

Book Blurb: Indian food is one of the world’s most popular cuisines. Even as it has transformed the contemporary urban foodscape in this age of globalization, social scientists have paid scant attention to the phenomenon. The essays in this book explore the relationship between globalization and South Asia through food. Udupi restaurants, Indian food in colonial times, dum pukht cuisine, staples of the prepared food industry like Bangalore’s MTR Foods, Britain’s curry culture, Indian fast food in California—these and other distinctive aspects of South Asia’s food and culture are examined to gain new insights into subcontinental food and the ways in which it has influenced the world around us.

Review: Curried cultures is an erudite work on the food habits of the subcontinent and the writings collected here shed an important insight into the diverse eating habits ranging from the well-known curry to some lesser-known dishes.

A lot of research has gone into the writings edited and diligently compiled into this book and there is a lot of stuff between these pages that is worth reading. There are many ways of assimilating a foreign culture, food by far the best of all. After all, food like religion and culture is very often an amalgamation of many things. The practice of consuming copious amounts of whiskey even in the tropical heat of India is widely prevalent. Perhaps it was done to imitate the colonial masters even at the cost of one’s health.

It would have been nice if it had offered a more detailed purview of more cuisines and more cultures but as the editors explain:

“Furthermore, Curries Cultures is mostly about Indians in India and abroad without sustained attention to other South Asians. Here we touch the surface of an urbanized, multi-lingual middle class, and although we are aware that is not the whole story, it will have to suffice for now.”

The book dwells into farmers market concept-the habit of buying food directly from the farmers, habit quite common in Europe and seeping into other countries. But food can also be a class act- a King’s breakfast isn/t the same as a pauper’s. This book is not a simple menu or a recipe book, it discusses linkages between food, culture, and religion and in the process raises some fascinating queries.

I have always felt that contrary to popular perceptions, food habits arise primarily out of local compulsions and a human being will consume anything that grows in the vicinity which explains why Assamese people consume Bamboo or why Bengali Brahmins consider fish as a primary dish.

An entire chapter is devoted to Dum Pukht, a mouth-watering dish, and a culinary delight. Some chapters delve into the linkages of subcontinent’s food habits and their integration into British society. A similar treatment is offered to Mughal cuisines.

“Curried Cultures joins an array of work that interrogates culinary cultures (separate from agricultural food production) to address issues of globalization, nation-breaking and beyond.”

Read this one to learn about the journey of the subcontinent’s food and how different cuisines have found their way into our plates.

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