Re-thinking Food (or Why I Look At My Thali Differently)

My mother shared this article with me by mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik  (or as Future Group calls him, it’s CBO = ‘Chief Belief Officer’).  It’s a most fascinating piece about culture and food, how culture transmits through food, in ways we have probably never imagined. There are so many meanings, hidden meanings and loss of meanings in the way many of us operate towards food today. I discovered that I am guilty of a kind of blasphemy, let’s call it gastro-blasphemy…. I have disregarded many sacred ideas associated with food, thinking it isn’t a big deal.

This article (the influence of Hinduism is strong) has made me rethink my approach to food and become more conscious of it. Read, if you are fond of food, of Indian culture, or both.


Here are some excerpts from

In the Indian kitchen, the child learnt to value approximation over exactness. Cooks never measured the quantity of salt to be added; it was all by judgment, salt to taste. Recipes were never written down but passed down through apprenticeship. One figured out proportion visually, by seeing the amount of food before, and through smell, never taste. Cooking therefore had to be creative, demanding opening up of other senses, beyond the taste buds. The cook was expected to rely on his eyes and ears and finger tips and nose, anything but the mouth. The absence of recipes indicated to the child that life was not about formulas. You had to work with what you had and be creative at it. It also meant that wisdom could not be stored outside human beings, in documents. The dish had no independent existence outside the cook. When the mother died, the particular taste of her dal went with her.’

‘ Western cuisine, we taste what the cook serves but in Indian cuisine we taste our own mixture..’


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Salil
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 19:29:56

    Do watch this TED talk by Devdatta Patnaik:


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