Illustration: Akila Weerasinghe / Himal Southasian
Illustration: Akila Weerasinghe / Himal Southasian

Who doesn’t put ghee in their khichuri?

On food and representation, online and offline.

Debolina Dey writes from the cusp of two cities – Delhi and Siliguri. They teach literature at Delhi University.

If there is one thing I choose to post about repeatedly on social media, it is food. My social media is often a celebration of food – either as recipe, or as the cultural artefact of everyday living. And perhaps this is true of the urban cultural scene in cities like Delhi. Food is a topic that manages to evoke nostalgia by denoting a certain depth of experience, even as it indicates your range and breadth of travel, and know-how about cultures that are not your own. Your knowledge of cheese, wine and sushi are often considered hallmarks of sophistication. Food in urban spaces and on social media have become uncritical ways of showcasing diversity and cosmopolitanism.

During these past four months, and especially during the first two of COVID-19 isolation, food became a mode of bonding – because what else could we do locked inside our homes that was both creative and nourishing? In private discussions, on social media and in food-related groups, recipe exchanges proliferated, much to one's joy and chagrin. Chagrin, because suddenly disparities in living conditions and access came more sharply into focus. And yet many of these thoughts had been cooking in my head even before the pandemic.

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