Aditi Sen loves cakes, horror films, and also happens to teach history of food. If you have any questions about the course, please contact her.
Many ask me, “So, you got interested in history of food because you like to cook and eat?” The answer is, no. Most people like to eat, plenty of people like to cook, not all of them are interested in knowing the origins of Russian Salad or reading Hannah Glasse’s cookbook. For some, food history is a way of understanding their own heritage, understanding their ancestral roots; for others, it’s a field in history we have neglected, and we simply must talk about it. Then there are researchers who are keen on finding origins, domestication, and migration of certain commodities. Food is also politics. Sugar singlehandedly intensifies slavery, and fosters colonization. Governments have actively dictated our diets; rationed us, starved us, made us into Banana Republics.
I have always wondered how I got into this. I am a storyteller. That’s all I have ever been. I use food to weave stories, help others knit them too. Food for me, is just another medium to express something beyond consumption/gratification. Honestly, most food blogs don’t appeal to me. I have developed major aversion towards restaurant reviews, and I don’t particularly enjoy listening to chefs. I don’t watch food shows anymore, I have never seen cooking competitions. Food, to me, is the Scandinavian fairy who hid inside the mountains to churn butter, or the German kitchen spirit who came for bread every night. Food is the Hindu goddess Annapurna who could make kings starve, food is also that magic stone which made delicious soup. Our stories are complex, and food is just one way of helping us articulate them. We have to keep weaving the tapestry, and food will always be a vital thread. Knowing about food is essential, it is knowledge that will help you tell your story.