This book is an introduction, an invitation, to the resplendent realm of foods and flavours of this sub-continent. It strives to unveil and showcase the classic as well as creative innovations from different 'food zones' illustrative of the synthesizing genius of the Indian people. The concept of rasa (literally meaning essence) is common to the domains of arts and gastronomy. This delicious exploration of incredible India is inspired by the realisation that the culinary heritage of this vast and varied land is as priceless as its literature, music, dance and majestic monuments.
About the Author:
Pushpesh Pant has studies Ancient Indian History and Culture and followed it up with a doctorate in International Relations. He has researched on Ayurveda and is passionate about Indian cuisines. He is the founder director of ANN (Academy of Natural Nutrition) that seeks to revive the tradition of eating sensibly in harmony with one's natural constitution and changing cycle of seasons. He is a man with multifarious interests-he has produced TV programmes on recipes and gourmet travelogues, authored books on food, travel, religion and foreign policy, written columns on food for the Tribune and Harmony magazine and is currently teaching at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
India, home to one of the most ancient civilisations, is a unique example of cultural and geographical diversities. Dissimilar cultural practices are deeply rooted in the people's daily lives even in the 21st century. Indian history is the fruit of geography, and geography the root of history. The history of several millennia has merged with phenomenal geographical variations to create the incredible India of today.
India is incredible in its landscapes, and the people who adorn her. Its rituals and traditions; sculptures and paintings; dance, music and theatre; handicrafts, fairs and festivals; monuments and manuscripts; and its varied cuisine-each is a definite statement that only India can proudly announce.
Myriad streams and rivers have been flowing for centuries in their own special terrain, sometimes forceful, sometimes gentle. Despite all kinds of obstacles, they flow on. When these waters reach the ocean, they mingle, and become one huge ocean. Similarly, these diverse, astonishingly rich and colourful cultural currents create a harmonious hymn known as India, even as they retain their unique individual identity.
This series of Incredible India presents 10 books on different cultural aspects of the country, written by well-known experts of the subject. Dr Pushpesh Pant, the author of this book on Indian cuisine, possesses encyclopaedic information on Indian and world cuisine! The way he describes recipes in words is so vivid and live that you actually relish the taste even on a printed page!
Food is a nation's identity, the spirit of civilisation. According to the author, cuisine and costumes are governed by taste. Taste, in turn, reflects the intrinsic temperament and acquired preferences. Indian culinary concept in philosophical literature is categorized as satvik, rajasik and tamasik. The satvik food helps to stay healthy and tranquil; the rajasik helps to develop heroic tendencies, aert behaviour. The food of these categories bring about qualitative changes in the temperament or mental health of the consumer.
The author has dealt with an unlimited variety of Indian food by dividing it into 10 culinary regions. Such a division brings out similarities and dissimilarities between these geographical regions. An example of similarity is the sweet dish payas of the east, payasam of the south, kheer of the north and west! The book is sprinkled with a number of recipes. There is special section on fabulous food lore, displaying the author's expertise in story telling. And that is what makes this book different from the many other available in the market on cuisine.
Food embodies the spirit of a civilisation and is as integral a part of a nation's identify as are its monuments and art forms. The French, the Italian, the Mexican and the Chinese, to name just a few, are people that take great pride in projecting their culinary heritage. Similarly, the cuisines of India tell the story of the interaction of the Indian people with foreigners through the centuries in a fascinating manner. This is not just a chronicle of passing fashions or changing tastes; it is a significant narrative that documents the ebb and flow of the tides of history dictated by technological breakthroughs and international trade.
The cuisines of India are best visualized as a magnificent river system crisscrossing across the sub-continent, uniting different regions-food zones-with indissoluble links. One must resist the temptation to identify the mainstream or get carried away pleasantly by the powerful flow of mighty rivers. Be it Mughaliya-Punjabi-Awadhi-Hyderabadi, Bengali, Chettinad-Tamil Brahmin, Malayali-Malabari, Goan-Mangalorean-coastal, Kashmiri or Rajasthani-Gujarati vegetarian, the evolution of different regional and ethnic styles and gastronomic traditions immediately recall the metaphor of the journey of river from its source to the sea.
What lends a unique enchantment to the 'whole' is the fascinating interplay of tributaries and distributaries. The confluences dramatically highlight the ongoing process of synthesis that is so characteristic of Indian civilisation; no less significant is the contribution of a culinary waterway shifting its course. Sudden influx of effluent-an exotic produce, a new crop or a cooking technique introduced by an itinerant trader-merchant, scholar-pilgrim, or soldier-adventurer-has often triggered or helped this process. What starts as a small pristine trickle from the glacial melt in the snow-capped Himalaya becomes a swollen torrent, with much alien stuff in its bosom, as it tumbles along its way, meandering whimsically, standing still (dammed) at times, always sustaining life, spreading joy and occasionally springing some surprises before it merges with the ocean.
Those who dwell along the banks of these rivers naturally enjoy an intimate personal bond with the waterway they consider their own. It gets entwined with the sorrows and joys of everyday life, local fairs and festivals, an integral part of their identity. So is it with cuisines. This, however, does not mean that the river belongs to any individual or a parochial group. All great rivers, as well as small streams hidden in unexplored wilderness admit affectionately into their family and fold all those who fall in love with them.
Cuisines of India should be approached in the same eclectic spirit. There is nothing mysterious or terrifyingly exotic to deter the uninitiated. Foods and flavours of India are accessible to anyone interested and can be enjoyed by everyone like its music, dance, literature and majestic monuments.
The book Cuisines showcases in an incredibly delicious manner the synthesizing genius of the people on this sub-continent-the capacity to balance the native with the foreign, classic with the folk, gross with the subtle and ephemeral with the eternal.
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