When I’m not playing mom or baker or market-explorer or cultural interpreter of grocery stores in foreign lands, I’ve a bit of a peering-into-the-future ninja role with the Institute for Customer Experience or ICE. Here’s a report I worked on for ICE, on Future Food, Food Futures. It’s not precisely ethnographic, intended mainly for UX and future-seeker audiences, though it does make me wonder: what, then, would an ethnographer’s take on the future of food really be? I suppose I’ll spend the rest of my days working that out in this blog space.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and have your slash-and-burn feedback on the slide share deck below, too, of course. [She takes a deep breath---]
Breath for fragrance,
who needs flowers?
With peace, patience, forgiving and self-command,
who needs the Ultimate Posture?
The whole world become oneself
who needs solitude,
O lord white as jasmine.
–Mahadeviakka, 12th century Virasaiva poet [translation by A.K. Ramanujan, in Speaking of Siva, 1973]
On a whim and with a secretly stolen hour, I found myself in the flower market aisles of Pondicherry’s “big market” (proper name: Goubert market), in search of Madurai malli–or the sambac jasmine from Madurai district. read more…
Time-pass silliness in the wake of all this talk of biryani diplomacy.
The talking heads are, in order of appearance: Narendra Modi (just sworn in as Indian PM); Manmohan Singh (accidental former PM); Raja Pervez Ashraf (former Pakistani Premier); Shashi Tharoor (author, UN career official, fmr. Congress Party Minister of State); the ever-dimpled Pappu, Rahul Gandhi (somewhat unintelligent last male scion of the Gandhi clan); Nawaz Sharif (once-again premier of Pakistan); Jayalalitha (famously authoritarian Tamil Nadu Chief Minister who pretty much owns the state now, having wiped out the opposition, and sells idlis at hugely subsidized rates and huge public costs); and the one-and-only larger-than-life Tamil film star demi-God Rajinikanth–without whom no story from these parts can ever be complete.
I hope all the folks in Delhi are enjoying their no-biryani snapshot-of-India diplomatic dinner somewhere cool by now.
This one’s for my friend Iryna (who asked at just the moment when I most needed a creative outlet) and for everyone else who’s ever come home for dosas and chutney, company and conversation. It takes inspiration from Krish Ashok’s crazy-funny infographics, which taught me to take inspiration from my parents, and all our funny, idisyncratic, and completely weird our ways of doing routine things in new ways.
We had no plans. We had only what we had: two blessed zucchinis, an abundance of green peas (which are in season), a half-bagful of cherry tomatoes (from Auroville), a withering yellow pepper (provenance unknown); a couple of sad old cucumbers, and a handful each of wilting basil and dying dill–the latter of which especially could not be wasted, no matter its condition, having arrived from far-off Bangalore, being a precious ingredient in these parts, and having to make recompense for an already too-large carbon footprint. Of course, it must be said that there is always cilantro (coriander) in an Indian kitchen, and usually a few sprigs of mint.
Usili fusilli beans and dill
If I cook it up will you eat it still?
Borne along by the swell and fall of life at 40+ with two kids and at least two jobs (but thankfully only one Verne), I’m often quite late to parties–even the Chennai ones happening around the corner from where I live.
In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy, being green.”
Especially if you’re a kid, and deal oh-so-much-better with white (chicken, bread, cheese, rice). Or, if you’re a tired mom, who doesn’t want to face the wince on that baby’s face when presented with spinach. Green has had such a bad name, Popeye had to be recruited to reaffirm its value. Really? Spinach that flowed from a can like green goop was going to help? Well, what do I know. Whether that worked for kids or inspired their parents, I’m not sure, though it apparently did help to boost spinach sales in those canned times. read more…
A package arrived from Bangalore this morning, sent by my lovely mother-in-law, who knows that a secret chamber of each of our hearts is reserved for the inimitably delicate little rose apple.
We had discovered these fruits last year at about this time, most peculiarly named “paneer pandu” (paneer or fresh cheese fruit, in Telugu). We decided that must be a misnomer. But the name was nonetheless a clue: there is no way to describe this fruit except by analogy. Paneer just wasn’t the right one. read more…
“…non-art is more Art than art.”–Allan Kaprow, The Education of the Un-Artist Part I, 1971
Everything about food is performance. We know this, intuitively and otherwise. We know it from restaurant experiences, where we have complained about service or praised presentation. We know it from Teppanyaki to such feminist statements as Janine Antoni’s 1992 “Gnaw” and Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party.” [Martha Rosler's 1975 "Semiotics of the Kitchen" deserves a post all its own.] We know it because Rirkrit Tiravanija served up rice and Thai curries in the MoMA, using cookery as an installation that connected artist and audience. We know it from every hostess who has been shamed because a meal lacked something or praised because she pulled it off perfectly. We know it from statistics about hunger, nutrition, starvation, mid-day meals, school lunches, and more–used to dance political dances of one sort or another. We know it from maps of food deserts and food swamps–more data to enact more arguments. We know it especially from the current food styling food gawking food blogging craze that has seized us in a peculiarly intense virtual engagement with this most non-virtual of our human needs. read more…
What is with the Tellspec hype this season?
Tellspec is a little handheld device that looks like a mouse (that’d be a computer mouse, not a real one), which you wave over your food–
Wait, wait for the beep of recognition–
And information about pesticides, gluten, allergens, nutrients, and more appear magically on your smartphone (which you’d also have to have, of course). read more…