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Textualization of the Culinary Realm and Nationalization of Identity - Essay Example

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“How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary India,” by Arjun Appadruai, creates an interesting argument about the role that cookbooks can play in the development of a national consensus cuisine, even in a large and diverse country like India…
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Textualization of the Culinary Realm and Nationalization of Identity
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Download file to see previous pages One of the first things that Appadruai argues is that you cannot examine the proliferation of cookbooks in India and what they demonstrate about the development of national identity without examining their intended audience: middle class women. Appardruai indicates that the middle class in India is “large and diverse” with people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds such as government service, military, business ownership or middle-rung corporate agency (Appardruai 8). This group is a new and emerging one in India, and has to struggle through a wide variety of cultural contexts. These women help construct “a new middle-class ideology and consumption style for India, which cuts across older ethnic, regional, and cast boundaries” (Appardruai, 6), or, put another way, these women are already breaking boundaries and the cookbooks must then represent this boundary breaking to keep up with them. One of the main reasons for this breaking of old boundaries is the fact that the middle class is made up almost exclusively of people who are incredibly mobile, moving far away from their home region to find work, as well as multi-caste, having a tendency to reject rather than accept traditional roles. So cookbooks do not necessarily demonstrate a developing culinary ideology for all of India, but rather the development of a very specific burgeoning national identity of a young, mobile and somewhat non-traditional middle class who are the main market for the cookbooks, and are thus obviously targeted by them. Following this, Appardruai discusses another type of clientele for cook books: the people whom these middle class women need to cook for. There are three main clients for this food, according to Appardruai: the woman’s “husband, her more traditional inlaws and other relatives, and important country cousins who crave food in the specialized mode of their region, cast, or community (7). These consumers combine with several other sources of pressure which construct a middle class Indian woman’s need for culinary expertise: “the push of guests who want to taste your regional specialties,” the push of children who want to avoid the “same old thing,” and the push of “ambitious husbands to display the metropolitan culinary ranges of their wife” (7). This means that the modern middle class Indian woman has to have at her disposal a wide arsenal of food preparatory methods. She needs to be able to cook her own regional cuisine to an expert level, because her guests and family are going to expect that to play an important role in her idenitity, and want to be able to establish a connection to her older roots. She also, however, needs to be able to cook a wide variation of other foods, some to simply “mix things up” as modern diets have an expectation of significant variety, but also must have at her command the ability to make food from other people’s ethnic and cultural roots in order to demonstrate that she is a metropolitan, modern person who can break free from her own traditional areas. Furthermore, making someone else’s home cuisine makes you seem welcoming puts your guests at ease. So the modern Indian middle class woman needs to be able to accomplish a wide variety of things culinarily, and cook books have been developed to augment her skills in any area she may be lacking. Adding to this push for polyglot cooking ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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