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Whiteness, Food Colors, and Food Culture

In How on 4 September 2015 at 8:00 am

Food Colors and Food Culture

“No race ever yet ate black bread when it could get white; nor even brown, yellow, or other mulatto tint.”

Dr. Woods Hutchinson in McClure’s magazine, 1906.

In the mass conversion towards refined and processed foods that has swept much of the world over the past few generations, many foods normally occurring in a wide variety of earth tones, became white, as if a formidable fairness cream had descended upon the food industry.   White flour, white sugar, white bread, white spaghetti, white rice, white upma ravva, white urad dal occupied the markets.  At first a status symbol for those who could afford them, refined foods later became a status symbol for those who need not eat the coarser grains because they lived a delicate life and could hire workers to do their heavy lifting for them.  Eventually they themselves became cheaper than their whole grain counterparts, while the nutritious polish and peels were diverted to the livestock industry.

Thirty years ago, Sidney Mintz unpacked the social, economic and political context of food in his seminal work, Sweetness and Power.  The history of whiteness and power with respect to food offers much to explore.   While evolutionary biology may account for our predilection towards the quick calories that processed foods offer, taste and food habits evolve under a variety of influences and cultural messages. 

Black Gram Matters

In Recipes, When on 1 September 2015 at 2:04 am

Since when are idlis white?

Not more than a few generations.    And if you look at all things that have become white over the past century, one by one they are regaining their color.   White bread, white pasta, white flour, white sugar, white rice are now recognized as more or less empty calories and are being replaced by their whole counterparts, on the brown to black side of the color spectrum.  It is time for idlis to do the same.

Soaked Urad - bursting out of its skin!

Black Gram (Urad): Soaked and ready to burst out of its skin!  Urad or Black Gram attracts wild yeast from the air.  As it ferments, the yeast makes the batter rise.

What are idlis made of?  Black gram and rice.   Or black gram and millets.

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees?

In Field Notes on 26 August 2015 at 7:49 pm

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees… :)

A guest post by Peter of Appalagraharam Andhra Pradesh

After school and on Sundays, the village kids come to play with the AID “Toy Library” toys…
Each day there is a different scenario enacted. One day the space may be a market place, with the children, as small groups or individually setting up there stalls with various wares for sale … tea stalls, tiffin stalls, hair studio, scrap merchants, general stalls etc…
Another day it may be the anganwadi centre with a teacher (who always seems to be yielding a big stick… :( teaching songs and games to the children whilst somebody else is preparing meals for every one…
One of the favorites is “Birthday parties… one or more children are selected as “Birthday Kids”
All the other children collect leaves and flowers to lavish the the birthday kid and their mudpie cake…

There is one common thing that revolves around all the scenarios…. money.

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