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062: Yayavr Book Club ed. 1 - Collingham

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

On June 14, 2022, I was delighted to be a part of an intimate, informative and engaging book discussion on the chapter titled “Madras Curry: the British invention of Curry” from Lizzie Collingham’s Curry (2005), as part of the Yayavr Book Club.

Some of the questions that came up were:

  1. Social Hierarchy and Food

How do social hierarchies/ social status and social relationships play out on the dinner table? When do we use steel plates and when do we use ceramic plates at home? Is serving whiskey to guests more aspirational than rum? Does broccoli stir fry carry more social prestige than snake gourd chutney? Is a loaded table more prestigious, or a single spoonful of molecular food served on a large plate? How and why do these conventions change?

2. Sources for research in Food

For people interested in the history of food, what could be the sources of information to look at? Folk songs, land tax records, visitor travelogs, royal recipe books? How do we translate and make accessible historic texts that were originally not written in English?

3. Measurement units for recipes

The older recipes noted in Collingham’s chapter use a different measurement system composed of units such as “masha” and “Chittacks” which were derived from the weight of gunja seeds (p. 117). When did recipe books in India switch to the metric system, and what brought about this change?

4. Methodological approach and Books

We mentioned some of the other books that tackle that multilayered concept of “Curry” including:

  • Ray, Krishnendu, and Tulasi Srinivas, editors. Curried Cultures. Rupa Publications, 2017 (collection of essays from a sociological lens)

  • Ruthnum, Naben. Curry: Eating, Reading and Race. Text Publishing Company, 2018 (Written from a background of literary studies)

How does the approach and material change when your disciplinary approach changes?

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