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Turmeric Nation: A Passage Through India’s Tastes

 

Longlisted | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction

Turmeric Nation: A Passage Through India’s Tastes

A brilliantly insightful and entertaining book about Indian food—the cooking and the eating, the traditions, taboos and myths, and, above all, the wonderful diversity.

Full Title: Turmeric Nation: A Passage Through India's Tastes

Author: Shylashri Shanker
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

What exactly is ‘Indian’ food? Can it be classified by region, or religion, or
ritual? What are the culinary commonalities across the Indian subcontinent?
Do we Indians have a sense of collective self when it comes to cuisine? Or is
the pluralism in our food habits and choices the only identity we have ever
needed?
Turmeric Nation is an ambitious and insightful project which answers these
questions, and then quite a few more. Through a series of fascinating essays—
delving into geography, history, myth, sociology, film, literature and personal
experience—Shylashri Shankar traces the myriad patterns that have formed
Indian food cultures, taste preferences and cooking traditions. From Dalit
‘haldiya dal’ to the last meal of the Buddha; from aphrodisiacs listed in the
Kama Sutra to sacred foods offered to gods and prophets; from the use of food
as a means of state control in contemporary India to the role of lemonade in
stoking rebellion in 19th-century Bengal; from the connection between death
and feasting and between fasting and pleasure, this book offers a layered and
revealing portrait of India, as a society and a nation, through its enduring
relationship with food.


About the Author: 

Shylashri Shankar is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research.
She is the author of Scaling Justice: India’s Supreme Court, Anti-Terror Laws and
Social Rights and co-author (with Raghav Gaiha) of Battling Corruption: Has
NREGA Reached India’s Rural Poor? She has also written on judicial activism in
India and Sri Lanka, transformative courts in the Global South, cross-judicial
engagement on secularism in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, ethnic conflict
in South Asia and the Middle East, and on the politics and impact of antipoverty
programmes.


Excerpt: 

Dalit Wedding Feast
Most Dalit weddings are held in summer in Uttar pradesh when the food grains are available. Also, one does not have to protect the groom's contingent from the cold or hailstorms. Dozens of baraatis are seated together in a circle. An earthen plate is put in front of each person, along with a tumbler. The gravy of cooked pork, which has salt, red chilli and turmeric, is poured into the tumbler. Pork pieces are served on the plate along with roti, rice, dal and vegetables. At the end of the meal, the person with the maximum number of bones on the plate is rewarded with the backside (the flesh by the tail) of the pig. The sweets served are either batasa (sugar boiled in water and solidified in casts) or gatta (chickpea flour with sugar) or kaja (fried flour and sugar).


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