The act of eating is simultaneously personal and prosaic. Perhaps because of this, stories about food reveal much of what we might otherwise miss. What do (and don’t) we eat, and when, and how? Who must shoulder the task of food preparation, and why? What foods do we turn to for convenience? Is communal eating always inclusive? These were some questions we sought to answer in this mini-series on food in Southasia. More specifically, we tried to fill in gaps, with an eye for stories that are often glossed over, or otherwise rendered invisible.
At Himal Southasian, we have always believed that stories about food can be used to illustrate larger socio-cultural issues. In 2013, we produced a print quarterly and web package titled ‘Farms, Feasts, Famines’ that tackled everything from food sovereignty to inequality to disappearing foods. Over the years, we have also commissioned stories on food security, fast food and entrepreneurship, shifting eating habits, and even on what food makes it onto our Instagram feed.
The three stories we are presenting in this miniseries came to us serendipitously as submissions, but, we felt, were intimately linked. They each told personal stories which, on closer examination, were deeply political. These include stories about laphing, a Tibetan dish which has seen a surge in popularity from Darjeeling to Kathmandu to Delhi; on food accessibility and the community thaal; and on ancestral kitchens and what they reveal about cooking in India. We hope they whet your appetite.
The stories we are releasing over the next week have been illustrated by Tripura-based artist Saima Debbarma and Mumbai-based artist Shruti Prabhu.
In this series:
Nangsel Sherpa and Shriya Singh on the Tibetan dish laphing and its recent popularity across the region.
Alefiya Tundawala on food accessibility and eating from the community Bohra thaal.
Meher Mirza on ancestral kitchens and the ways in which we occupy them.