Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture
Publication Year: 2010
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 notions of belonging are affirmed or resisted. Culinary Fictions provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and TV shows 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 a 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 populations, and Culinary Fictions maps how it figures in various expressive forms. Mannur examines the cultural production from the Anglo-American reaches of the South Asian diaspora. Using texts from novels—Chitra Divakaruni’s Mistress of Spices and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night—and cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey’s Invitation to Indian Cooking and Padma Lakshmi’s Easy Exotic, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.
Published by: Temple University Press
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Growing up in various nodes of the South Asian diaspora, I came to appreciate the intimate connections between food, gender, and ethnicity through my mother’s efforts to teach me how to cook Indian food. Disciplining me into becoming a good Indian woman by teaching me
Introduction: Food Matters
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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 India Abroad. During his speech, Mansingh spoke in no uncertain terms about the
Part One: Nostalgia, Domesticity, and Gender
1 / Culinary Nostalgia: Authenticity, Nationalism, and Diaspora
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In her short autobiographical essay “Food and Belonging: At ‘Home’ and in ‘Alien’ Kitchens,” Indian American cultural critic Ketu Katrak suggests that culinary narratives, suffused with nostalgia, often manage immigrant memories and imagined returns to the “homeland.” Narrativizing her own migratory journey from Bombay to the United States, she...
2 / Feeding Desire: Food, Domesticity, and Challenges to Heteropatriarchy
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More than any of her other short stories, “A Lesbian Appetite” is one in which southern lesbian writer Dorothy Allison fashions a connection among food, sex, and love. In its evocation of memories of intimacy, shared foods and feelings, Allison’s story unapologetically conceptualizes...
Part Two: Palatable Multiculturalisms and Class Critique
3 / Sugar and Spice: Sweetening the Taste of Alterity
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Despite the eventual failure of Triton and Ranjan’s relationship in Reef, the earliest gestures toward intimacy are marked through the sharing of love cake. Charmaine Solomon’s classic tome on Asian cooking suggests that love cake might well be the most coveted and contentious of confections...
4 / Red Hot Chili Peppers: Visualizing Class Critique and Female Labor
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Moving from narratives about culinary Orientalism to contemporary narratives attuned to the exigencies of class, capitalism, and labor, I want to indulge in an anachronistic detour, delving back into the pages of history to the moment of the Indian Uprising, or Sepoy Mutiny of...
Part Three: Theorizing Fusion in America
5 / Eating America: Culture, Race, and Food in the Social Imaginary of the Second Generation
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For the last three years, I have taught Nilesh Patel’s A Love Supreme to my students in a seminar titled “Food and Culture.” As they watch this film, brought to them from across the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, many students respond with delight to see samosas prepared with love and care...
6 / Easy Exoticism: Culinary Performances of Indianness
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If Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was so successful because it parodied an overtly “white” genre, the culinary-adventuring travelogue, it bodes well for parody’s ability as a literary-political mode to cleave a space to critique how interest in Indian American foodways is installed...
Conclusion: Room for More: Multiculturalism’s Culinary Legacies
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The end of an Indian meal, whether consumed in public spaces such as restaurants and small eateries or in private spaces such as the home, is often marked by the consumption of a savory snack designed to promote digestion. Paan, a mixture of betel nut, lime paste, and spices wrapped in...
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About the Author
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Publication Year: 2010