top of page

065: Yayavr Book Club ed. 2 - Cutlets in Collingham

On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, I was delighted to host the second edition of the Yayavr Book Discussion Club. We read the chapter titled “Cold Meat Cutlets: British food in India” from Lizzie Collingham’s book Curry (2005).

Some of the questions that came up were:

  1. Duality in the author’s voice

Many of the participants observed that often Collingham’s voice unconsciously flits between that of a historian, and that of her own particular worldview - as someone born, educated and writing in the UK. In academia, how much does one’s lived experience inform the research and writing lenses?

We discussed that even in disciplines such as science and history that claim to be “objective”, there is an urgent need for multiplicity and reflection.

See professor of Philosophy - Dr. Sundar Sarukkai’s lecture “Decolonising Science”.

2. Women as carriers of tradition

Some of the participants remarked how the onus of “tradition” through its outer signifiers such as clothing and cuisine often fell entirely upon women.

In the chapter, we saw how the Maharani (queen) of Baroda and her daughter ate food “served on large golden trays” while her husband’s food resembled “very much what you would get at a first class restaurant in London” (p. 172).

Even British women who could now travel to India through the newly opened Suez Canal were expected to present “soup and roast meat, custard and pudding” at the dining table (p. 171).

3. Preserved/ Tinned/ Processed/ Packaged/ Frozen/ Ultra Processed Food

There was an extensive discussion on how tinned food, made originally to satisfy the nutritional needs of the Imperial sailors and soldiers, has percolated to the everyday - use of milkmaid condensed milk in Indian sweets.

What were the old methods of preserving food - salting, sun drying, brining, smoking, fermenting? How are the methods and the products disappearing?

Sahiba shared an example of a garland of sun dried shalgam (turnips) that her Sindhi grandmother would make and dry on the branches of a tree in their backyard. Amar made a distinction between “ready to cook” products such as masalas and pastes versus “ready to eat” products such as MTR and ITC meals, that are easily available in the Indian urban market today.

25 views0 comments


bottom of page