A culture of food

One of the remarkable things about India that we’ve noticed so far is the dearth of supermarkets. They are far and few between, and the ones that do exist seem to be small-ish independent ones. Unless we’re just looking in the wrong places, we’re really not seen any large chain supermarkets like the ones in the west and many other parts of the world. Joanna Blythman’s excellent book, ‘shopped’, which we’ve both read recently, confirms all those suspicions about supermarkets that have been gathering over the years. They don’t act in the favour of suppliers or consumers, rather, they act in the interests of the bottom line, doing anything that will bring them more profit. They reduce rather than expand choice, particularly in the area of fresh produce, where a few commercially viable fruit and vegetables bred for looks and longevity (rather than flavour or nutrition) dominate. They defy seasonality, flying in ‘off season’ produce from around the globe at terrible cost to the environment.

So it is exciting to be in a culture that seems to be all about food, and not at all about supermarkets. Piles of vegetables are sold in markets, on street sides, and in little shops. Fruit vendors pile their wares up in pyramids and bunches on little wooden carts (though some of it seems to be imported fruit). Other shops sell a huge variety of legumes rices and pulses in dusty sacks. Its not the most convenient way to shop, it takes a bit of getting your head around where to get things from, but it seems to be that people have a real connection to their food. People are proud of the regional differences in food and fiercely attached to their local food customs and specialities. We’ve asked loads of questions about the new vegetables we’ve seen, tried any new fruit we’ve seen, and seen all  sorts of foods growing for the first time. Indian people seem to understand the use of food for health and food as medicine. Many of the spices used in cooking have other health benefits that seem to be generally well known.   India seems richer and more beautiful for its supermarket free food culture. Long may it last.



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4 responses to “A culture of food

  1. Alison Foster

    Hello to you both.
    Was sorry to hear about the untimely death of your friend Robert of Kira farm. I’m really enjoying reading about the Indian adventures you’re having. It certainly brings a bit of colour and warmth to the dark (but weirdly mild) days of the English winter.
    I totally agree about the benefits of the Indian way of shopping for food – it would be good for more people to get that connection back.
    Best wishes to you both

    • Hi Alison,

      thanks so much for your comments. Glad the winter isn’t too cold, sorry to say we’re not missing it! But will miss the spring actually. We’ve booked our flight back to the uk so will be coming through to oxford by 2nd June. We should catch up some time soon about lecture/exhib before then!

      hope you’re well, belated happy new year,

      Malcolm and Amanda

  2. Dorothy

    Dear Amanda and Malcolm
    It must be most heartening to see first hand the relationship that the Indians have towards food and the marketing of it thereof. Yes so different from the artificial and get rich quick – the latter for some – in the West. I do wonder where all the fast and often unnatural ways in food production from growing crops and rearing animals to processing and supermarket shelves. How much is the public aware of and how much do the majority care even? Surely there will be some long term price to pay for some of the ways in farming and processing? I think it could be quite scary really. I would be interested to hear your views.
    With love
    Auntie Dorothy

  3. Dorothy

    I love the rich colours and natural look of the beans and vegetables as shown in your pictures. Thank you as always for sharing with us all.
    God bless you in your travels and work as well as your lives.

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