‘Food is a great social leveller’

Deccan Herald, December 10, 2015

What alarms me is that a lot of home cooking in terms of traditional Indian food is getting lost. I don’t see kadi chawal being made in houses so often,” exclaims Mita Kapur.

“I feel that food unites and levels us whether socially or culturally, especially in a diverse country like ours where we have such inherent rich food traditions. Most of our food traditions are very scientific. There are multiple layers to the food narrative across the country. There is so much to be done in terms of documenting and archiving and so much is getting lost. These are my concerns which keep me writing about food,” says Kapur.

Kapur is known for her body of work as the founder of literary consultancy Siyahi and a critique, curator, commentator, editor. But her affiliation for food and food writing has always stood out for her. “I have always noticed that when you are meeting strangers, you don’t know what to say to each other. But mention a slice of chocolate cake or a lassi in a kulhad, or mention a hot jalebi and you will see that it breaks the ice. It is such a fantastic leveller,” says the 49-year-old.

Watching her sister bake cakes and pastries, Kapur’s love affair with food started at a very young age. It only continued as she got married into a Punjabi family. “I used to sit at my kitchen’s window and watch my sister make cakes and pastries. I used to wait for her to give me the bowl to lick. That’s when my attraction towards food started. Then, I started experimenting as a teenager. It only grew when I got married into a Punjabi family where food is always talked about,” says Kapur.

Her latest endeavour as the editor of Chillies and Porridge: Writing Food by Harper Collins brings together an eclectic selection of chefs, writer, editors and food lovers talking about their favourite subject – food. “My publisher and I realised that there was nothing really done in the field of contemporary food anthology ever since the 1990s. I am always game for something that is challenging because that’s the only way that I rejuvenate myself,” Kapur tells Metrolife.

While Jaipur-based Kapur mentions that “if readers don’t love food, they will get converted” after reading the book, she feels, the “experimentation and exposure” in the contemporary food scene is welcoming.

She says, “I think what is happening in the scene of food is very welcome. It’s not only experimentation in terms of the cuisines that have crept into the country at the global level but I am also looking at the kind of experiments within our regional cuisines. The level of exposure because of TV shows, Instagram, Pinterest and food blogging is brilliant. When I say that food is a leveller, this is levelling of a different kind.”


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