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058: Who is a Locavore? What does "local" mean?

What does “local” mean to you?



A tiny eatery in Parkala, near Manipal served the best Mangalore buns I have tasted. Hot, steaming, deep fried pillows of maida straight from the kitchen at the back. They had a mild taste of sweet, ripe bananas and a hint of sharp jeera.The golden-red pieces of heaven were just the right combination of crispy, crunchy and chewy, and you could never stop at only one.


We would take the local public bus to Parkala on Sundays just to eat those buns. We did not even know the ‘official’ name of the place, and everyone just referred to it as “anna’s place” (big brother’s place). We students were the ‘outsiders’ eating amongst the local Parkala residents - many for whom the eatery was simply a convenient place near the bus stop junction. But the owner would welcome us and serve us generously. Those buns to me were the epitome of ‘local’ food.


What made the experience of eating those distinct Mangalore buns, in that particular eatery, with those special friends, in that extraordinary time of my life a local experience? Perhaps the root word for local may help us understand this better.


Folded into the English word ‘local’ are two concepts derived from its Latin roots. The first is the idea of “a place” (‘locus’). Please note that the use of ‘a’ before the word ‘place’ signifies the specific and the singular. A place is a point or an area within the more generic ‘space’. It is particularity, it is the here and now, it is the ‘immediate environment’ (Casey, 2001), it is a precise geography.


The second concept from the Latin roots is the notion of “belonging to a place” (‘localis’). What does belonging mean? The word ‘belonging’ has the connotations of acceptance, of affinity, of love, of fitting in, of a relationship. And the word ‘longing’ has undertones of yearning, of desire, of remembrance, of nostalgia, of craving, of thirst and hunger. When these desires and aspirations are met, you belong.


How may you not belong? What roles do identity and community play in your sense of belonging? When do you feel like a ‘local’? When do you eat like a local? When do you become a local? Do particular experiences, habits, ideas, rituals, people, animals or plants make you feel like you belong? Do imagined, constructed, or real connections give you a sense of belonging?


How do the meanings of the word local shift in another language? What are the other words that signify “local” in a language that you know? Please share some examples of these words with me. Are the meanings more expansive? Or more restrictive? Do they include ‘belonging’ and ‘place’ in their meanings? What are the cultural, physical, historical, social and political threads that weave into these meanings?



Image Credit: Daria Shevtsova (Pexel)


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