Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India by Colleen Taylor Sen

By Colleen Taylor Sen

From dal to samosas, paneer to vindaloo, dosa to naan, Indian foodstuff is various and wide-ranging—unsurprising when you think about India’s excellent diversity of climates, languages, religions, tribes, and customs. Its delicacies differs from north to south, but what's it that makes Indian meals recognizably Indian, and the way did it get that means? to respond to these questions, Colleen Taylor Sen examines the nutrition of the Indian subcontinent for millions of years, describing the country’s delicacies within the context of its non secular, ethical, social, and philosophical development.
           
Exploring the traditional indigenous vegetation equivalent to lentils, eggplants, and peppers which are valuable to the Indian nutrition, Sen depicts the country’s agricultural bounty and the fascination it has lengthy held for international viewers. She illuminates how India’s position on the middle of an unlimited community of land and sea alternate routes led it to turn into a conduit for vegetation, dishes, and cooking thoughts to and from the remainder of the realm. She exhibits the impact of the British and Portuguese in the course of the colonial interval, and he or she addresses India’s nutritional prescriptions and proscriptions, the origins of vegetarianism, its culinary borrowings and thoughts, and the hyperlinks among nutrition, future health, and drugs. She additionally bargains a flavor of Indian cooking itself—especially its use of spices, from chili pepper, cardamom, and cumin to turmeric, ginger, and coriander—and outlines how the country’s delicacies varies all through its many regions.
           
Lavishly illustrated with 100 pictures, Feasts and Fasts is a mouthwatering travel of Indian foodstuff packed with interesting anecdotes and scrumptious recipes that might have readers devouring its pages.

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Example text

The supreme purifying material, panchagavya, combined five products of the cow: milk, yoghurt, ghee, urine and dung. Flavourings used in Vedic times included mustard seeds, turmeric, black and long pepper, bitter orange and sesame seeds. e Atharaveda, a collection of spells and remedies against diseases, mentions black pepper as a cure for infections caused by wounds. Sesame is mentioned in many texts, both as a food and as a ritual item that was part of every major life event. Sesame-seed balls (pinda) were offered to one’s ancestors during the Hindu rite called shraddha.

But unlike soma, drinking sura was frowned on by the priestly compilers of the Vedas, who listed the consumption of alcohol as one of seven sins, along with anger and gambling. 39 feasts and fasts After soma, the item most frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda is the cow, the subject of more than 700 references and three hymns. There is textual evidence that cows were occasionally killed in ceremonies honouring ancestors (shraddhas) or to honour distinguished guests. But at the same time the cow was venerated as a cosmic symbol, the universal mother and the source of life and nourishment: The Cow is Heaven, the Cow is Earth, the Cow is Vishnu, Lord of Life Both Gods and mortal men depend for life and being on the Cow She hath become this universe; all that the Sun surveys is she.

E central tenet of Ashoka’s philosophy and practice was dharma (in Sanskrit; dhamma in Pali), a word that has been translated as duty, social order, righteousness or universal law. He expounded it in fourteen edicts posted on rock surfaces or sandstone pillars in more than 30 places in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 11 Ashoka also expressed concern for the well-being of animals. An inscription in his first edict reads: ‘Our Lord the king kills very few animals. Seeing this, the rest of the people have also ceased from killing animals.

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