Culinary Fictions

Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Culinary Fictions
    Book Description:

    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 Fictionsprovides 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'sThe Namesakecombines 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, andCulinary Fictionsmaps 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'sMistress of Spicesand Shani Mootoo'sCereus Blooms at Night-and cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey'sInvitation to Indian Cookingand Padma Lakshmi'sEasy Exotic, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0079-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XVI)
  4. Introduction: Food Matters
    (pp. 1-24)

    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 magazineIndia 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 grows on sandy soil, requires very little water, and requires virtually no maintenance” (S16). Here, the...

  5. PART ONE Nostalgia, Domesticity, and Gender
    • 1 Culinary Nostalgia: Authenticity, Nationalism, and Diaspora
      (pp. 27-49)

      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 remarks, “my own memorybanks about food overflowed only after I left India to come to the United States as a graduate student. The disinterest in food that I had felt during my childhood years was transformed into a new kind of need for that food as an essential connection with home....

    • 2 Feeding Desire: Food, Domesticity, and Challenges to Heteropatriarchy
      (pp. 50-78)

      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 food preparation within the domestic sphere so as to accommodate a queer vision of kinship. Severing the seamless link between heterosexuality and food preparation, Allison tells a story of love and desire mediated through food that transgresses the gendered logic of the domestic space, fashioning a narrative in which food consumption and preparation in the domestic space...

  6. PART TWO Palatable Multiculturalisms and Class Critique
    • 3 Sugar and Spice: Sweetening the Taste of Alterity
      (pp. 81-113)

      Despite the eventual failure of Triton and Ranjan’s relationship inReef, 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 because it reigns supreme as the confectionery choice of many as well as the confection with the most variations known to cooks in the Sri Lankan diaspora. For Mala inCereus Blooms at Night, baking a cake for Ambrose allows her to express her desire for him. Establishing networks of intimacy enabled through shared consumption...

    • 4 Red Hot Chili Peppers: Visualizing Class Critique and Female Labor
      (pp. 114-144)

      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 1857 (hereafter Uprising). Putting forth an analysis of this moment is appropriate for this chapter, not because of the deep-seated connection between culinary beliefs and the Uprising, but because it offers a singular instance of when action and resistance coalesced around the mutable significance of food. For most historians of India’s colonial period, the winter of...

  7. PART THREE Theorizing Fusion in America
    • 5 Eating America: Culture, Race, and Food in the Social Imaginary of the Second Generation
      (pp. 147-180)

      For the last three years, I have taught Nilesh Patel’sA Love Supremeto 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 on-screen. If Patel’s loving homage to his mother’s samosas speaks to members of the second generation, it is in part due to the fact that Patel’s film recasts Indian food as something to be viewed with desire, love, and care.

      Such a rendering of food prepared with love...

    • 6 Easy Exoticism: Culinary Performances of Indianness
      (pp. 181-216)

      IfHarold and Kumar Go to White Castlewas 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 as a positive outcome of the purported mutualism engendered by multicultural liberalism. An overt parody of the runaway success TV showQueer Eye for the Straight Guy, theBadmashcomic reproduced here targets the fashionability of Indian cuisine by focusing on how Ravi, an Indian immigrant, is made over by the Fab Five. After the...

  8. Conclusion: Room for More: Multiculturalism’s Culinary Legacies
    (pp. 217-226)

    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 a betel leaf, has captured the fancy of travelers and writers alike, inspiring the works of E. M. Forster and Sara Suleri as well as filmmaker Nisha Ganatra, to name a few. In an autobiographical essay titled “Pan,” E. M. Forster describes his pleasure and revulsion at consuming paan,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 227-234)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-248)
  11. Index
    (pp. 249-255)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 256-257)