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Culinary Fiction: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture

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Item Code: NAF132
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Anita Mannur
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788121512459
Pages: 269 (6 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch X 6.5 inch
Weight 540 gm
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Book Description
About the Book
For South Asians food regularly plays a role in how issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and national identity are imagined as well as how national of belonging are affirmed or resisted. Culinary Fictions Provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and T.V show use to describe Indians abroad. When an immigrant mother in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake combines Rice Krispies, Planters Peanuts, onions, salt, lemon Juice, and Green Chili peppers to create dish similar to one found on Calcutta sidewalks it evokes not only the character’s Americanization, but also her nostalgia for India.

Food, Anita Mannur writes, is a central part of the cultural imagination of diasporic population. Culinary fictions maps how it figures in various expressive forms, and illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.

About the Author

Anita Mannur is Assistant Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies at Miami University of Ohio.

On December 12, 2003, Lalit Mansingh, former Indian ambassador to the United States, delivered a speech to a crowd of Indian Americans at the annual awards banquet of the weekly news magazine Indian Abroad. During his Speech, Mansingh spoke in no uncertain terms about the lofty achievements of the Indian Diaspora, especially the strand of the Diaspora located in the United States. In Speaking About the purported resilience of the Indian character, Mansingh suggests the coconut is an apt metaphor for Indians because "It grow on sandy soil, requires very little water, and requires virtually no maintenance" (S16). Here the co-count stands in for all that rings stereotypic about Indian Americans: the notion that the community is uniformity flourishing and has made the better of often hostile environments. Mansingh’s narrative, to be sure, privileges the experiences of upwardly mobile and middle and middle-to upper-class India Americans, ignoring the experience of those Indian Americans who do not Flourish in the United States-Indian Americans Located on the lower rungs of society’s ladder the working class the undocumented and the lower rung of society’s ladder: the working class the undocumented, and the disenfranchised.

Mansingh’s use of the term "coconut" is intriguing. Typically used to reference assimilatory among moves among Indian Americans and South Asian American, the term "coconut" is more colloquially used to name individuals who might identify as "white". with its hints of a racial ontology, the term suggests there are authentic and less authentic ways of being Indian.Looking Indian, being brown on the outside, and having a particular set of tastes and preferences that don’t necessarily correspond to predetermined notions of what It means to be Indian may lead to one being labeled a coconut-white on the inside and brown on the outside. Other communities of color frequently apply culinary metaphors to speak of similar forms of racalized performance. Within the African American community, the tern is "Oreo"; among East Asian Americans, the terms "Banana" and "Twinkie" are analogues to the Oreo, and for Native Americans the "apple" serves apple serves a similar function. Woven through each of these metaphors is a narrative of ethnic betrayal: the notion that one might be colored brown, black, Yellow, or red on the outside, and act in a suggest one is "white" on the inside. To capture the sentiments of south Asian Youth who do not identify with whiteness, but choose instead to mark their alliance with Blackness, K.B, a member of the hip–hop Indian Group Karmacy, Present the term "rotten coconut," on the outside but black on the inside. Natasha Sharma argues that such seemingly simplistic metaphors are actually more complicated; while Bananas and coconuts are healthy fruit, conning positive identification whiteness, the image of rotten coconut carries a negative Stigma. While these metaphors are context-specific, they hint at the dynamic nature of racial categories, deconstructing the idea that race is "something 'natural'-whether biologically or culturally so" (Sharma 30-31) Surprisingly, Mansingh’s speech seems ignorant of this complex and sullied history behind the term "coconut" whether in a state of presumed "freshness" or "rottenness": instead, he identifies the coconut in the most positive terms as a symbol of potent upward mobility one which would ignore the appalling effects of race and Class discrimination that are more salient for those without access to the education, social services and adequate language skills necessary for survival in an in caressingly monolinguals driven cultural and political economy.

Underlying Mansing’s glib assertions about Indianans is a rather Simple truism: when it thinking about South Asian diasporas bodies, food is never far: outside of Mansingh’s assertions. much of the positive valorization of Indianans is linked to the growing popularity of Indian food and the popularity of India-inspired clothing, fusion, and commodities within spaces and communities that have become South Asian diasporas sites. Discursively the terms by which "Indiananess" is imagined almost always mobilizes a culinary Idiom; more often than not food is situated in narrative about racial and ethnic identity as an in tractable measure of cultural authenticity. While Mansingh’s assertions may take on a unique character insofar as he actively seek out the realm of the culinary to met aphorize U.S-based Indian Diasporas he is by no means the only political figure to link food with cultural and ethnic identity particularly as it relates to Indian bodies.

Only two years prior to Mansingh’s speech another political figure-this time on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean-connected culinary symbols with race and ethnicity. In the now infamous "Chicken Tikka" masala speech, Robin Cook, than foreign secretary for Britain, famously claimed chicken Tikka Masala (also popularly referred to as "CTM" ) for Britain, Proclaiming the popular spice chicken dish as Britain’s national dish. The speech, not surprisingly, spurred wide interest among the British public, food critics, and Indians around the word. Purists among the critics decried chicken Tikka Masala as an inauthentic imitation of a culinary item with no antecedent in India, while activists among Black British communities were aghast that a British political leader Might so willfully ignore the complex historical conditions which have led to Indian restaurateurs creating CTM for consumption in their restaurants.

As legend has it, the dish was born to satisfy the bland palate of an English diner. Iqbal Wahhab, a journalist and restaurateur, suggests that CTM was invented by a Bangladeshi chef in an Indian restaurant. AS the story goes, upon being served chicken Tikka, a traditionally dry Preparation of meat, an irate customer demanded to know where the gravy was in the dish he ordered. To placate the customer, the chef whipped up a sauce made of Campbell’s cream of tomato soup and some spice, and thus was born chicken tikka masala. While the origins of the dish are certainly elusive, especially for its purist detractors, the debate around chicken Tikka Masala is fascinating for it chronicles the ways in which food becomes indelibly on to the national psyche at the same time that the larger debate functions as an index of apparently changing culture norms In its current usage, CTM is more frequently consumed as post pub fare: a spicy concoction to satisfy the appetite of Inebriated individuals But while the consumer market may have legitimized CTM as a "British" Dish to the points that It along with a number of other Indian foods, has "arrived" and been packaged for the frozen-meal Market one cannot overlook the role played by entrepreneurial innovators Such as Indian immigrant Ghulam Noon His company Noon products specializes in prepackaged frozen Asian meals and is Widely available in supermarkets The products are so popular that some credit Noon for making CTM household name In Britain And Yet a more clear history that might account for how an immigrant of origin might have been able to successfully ferment a carrier by selling CTM to a largely white public, a brilliant entrepreneurial move by most estimation, does not emerge in Cook’s speech.

For Robin Cook, Chicken Tikka masala represent a New form of multiculturalism, notably one in which the British national character is praised for its ability and willingness to "absorb" from and adapt the culinary histories of its immigrants and formerly colonized subject Left out of Robin Cook’s praise is the notional that the CTM version of Indianans is malleable enough to be reinvented by Britons without any rigorous interrogation about what British consumers to have access to CTM in the first instance. Indeed, the very conditions of colonialism that brought Indians to Britain, the condition of race and class In Britain which made it necessary for South Asian immigrants to enter into the business of making Indianans palatable to western tastes and the question of who or what is responsible for making Indianans available to the mainstream British palate from a narrative that is wholly submerged in cook’s fantasy of British-style multiculturalism. Put another way, what makes CTM acceptable on British table when the same Indian bodies that produce CTM are not welcome to sit at the table with the British? Whatever the origins of the dubious dish might be one things is certain: the CTM debate has ceased to be (if it ever was )exclusively about food. The CTM debate is as much, if not more about anxieties about cultural admixtures race and ethnicity as it is about accurately chronicling the etymology for a dish comprised of Tandoori style meat drenched in masala sauce: something that seems so quintets sensually "British" that British persons may claim to know good Indian, food better than Indians for instance.

Read together, Mansingh’s and Cook's speeches speak to the cultural continuum linking migratory subjects from Asia. The "contributions" of South Asian bodies, separated by oceans, can made to best resonate if apprehended trough culinary metaphors and symbols. Left out of both their glowing statements is any sense of how the culinary practices and preferences of the South Asian diasporas subjects they both celebrate might also be connected to the racism and tension that South Asian bodies with ever greater frequency experience on a daily basis. Where, for instance for instance in either of these celebratory utterances is a sense of how food odors, often indelibly often indelibly grafted onto bodies of radicalized subjects, serve to negatively radicalize South Asian bodies? Here, Various forms of popular culture in the United States and the United Kingdom illustrate the multiply complexities and conflicts enmeshed with culinary rhetoric. One Might recall the scene from the hit television series Sex and the City in which Carrie Bradshaw turns her nose up at an apartment that to her reeks of Indian food something that identifies the apartment to her as a "shit hole". The 2007 racial controversy emerging from the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother offers yet another example of South Asian food carrying a Negative stigma. When one of the contestants, jade Goody, entered into a protracted argument with Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, the former launched her tirade against the actress in culinary, terms calling her "Shilpa Poppadom," referring to the customary appetizer served in Indian restaurants. While the British and Indian publics quickly came to Shetty’s defence, lambasting Goddy for her racism couched in culinary term, sit quickly become apparent how seamlessly Goddy’s racism dovetailed with a negative rendering of Indian food. Amid Cook’s and Mansingh’s rhetoric of culinary multiculturalism, where are the narrative that bear witness to the often horrifying work condition of those who labor in restaurant Kitchens in the United States and Britain to serve CTM.?

Take, for example, a powerful Scene from the film The Guru, in which familiarity with Indian food buttresses a stunning moments of racial abjection in the otherwise unspectacular film. A Bollywood- inspired film that hit North American screens in early 2003, The Guru Centers its narrative on Ramu a Young Indian immigrant who arrives in New York in search of the American Dream. Ramu, a stylish Young man who makes a living instruction middle-aged women in India in the techniques of the Macarena dance, discovers his first days in the United States to be anything but dreamlike. Like many immigrants who find themselves ethnically "downgraded," upon his arrival in the United states Ramu is unable to procure employment and finds his first viable job opportunity as a waiter in an Indian restaurant.

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Food Matters 1
Part One Nostalgia, Domesticity, and Gender
1 Culinary Nostalgia: Authenticity, Nationalism and Diaspora 27
2 Feeding Desire: Food, Domesticity, and Challenges to Hrteropatriarcy 50
Part Two Palatable Multiculturalism and Class Critique
3 Sugar and Spice: Sweetening the Taste of Alterity 81
4 Red Hot Chili Peppers: Visualizing Class Critique and Labor 114
Part Three Theorizing Fusion in America
5 Eating America: Culture Race and in the Social Imaginary of the Second Generation 147
6 Easy Exoticism Culinary Performances of Indianans 181
Conclusion: Room for More Multiculturalism Culinary Legacies 217
Notes 227
Bibliography 235
Index 249
**Sample Pages**

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