FIRST FOOD: Culture of Taste

February 06, 2013

Food is very personal. We know that.

What we often don’t realise is that food is also more than personal.

Food is also about culture and, most importantly, about biodiversity. We often do not think how flora and fauna around us make up our culture. We do not think that food diversity, indeed cultural diversity, is linked to diversity in the biological world.

As a result, we often do not value this biodiversity that grows in the wild, in the farm, in the forest and the lake and the ocean. Each region of India, indeed the world, is diverse in its food habits. It has its own recipes; it cooks with different ingredients; it eats differently. This is not an accident.

Every region, for instance, has its own rice variety. Many of these come with medicinal properties. Most are specific to the ecosystem they grow in. If the region is drought-prone, the variety survives in tough conditions, like Kayame rice of Karnataka.

The Orkaima, Pokkali and Kuttadan varieties found in low-lying districts of Kerala are salt-resistant, hence suitable to grow in seawater. In the highlands of the same state, another rice variety is grown: Navara (in Palakkad), which has medicinal properties and has received the Geographical Indication Certificate in 2007. This richness of variety resulted in culinary methods that were equally diverse and equally rich. Bengal has a tradition of cooking different rice in different seasons. This is our food culture.

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