How did the humble dal become the primary source of protein in Indian diet? Chai, the most popular beverage, is not indigenous. These are some of the topics that will be discussed at a two-day event that is likely to draw foodies and history buffs alike at the University of Mumbai this weekend. In a first-of-its-kind event, the department of archaeology is hosting ArchaeoBroma, a conference on the history, ethnography and sociology of food.
What sets this conference apart is that academics, food researchers, nutritionists and archaeologists will discuss not recipes but the culture surrounding food. “The food that is consumed by a community is a map into how the community thinks. We will have people talk about where the various food habits originated, how food developed and how it is evolving,” said Rameesh G R, a member of India Study Centre, which is organising the conference with the archaeology department. “If anyone has wondered what influences food habits in India, whether the grains and vegetables are grown differently, what kind of cultural influences have morphed the cuisines, this conference will address some of these questions,” said Kurush Dalal, a faculty member.
“Dal is a staple here… the primary source of protein. But we don’t know how it became so and how many kinds of dal there are,” Rameesh said. Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, a food blogger who has sampled at least 30 varieties of pulses, will talk about the history of dal. Food historian Mohsina Mukadam will speak on studies in food.
As a treat for attendees, sessions will be interspersed with servings of tea preparations from different parts of the country such as Kahwa, Saar and Darjeeling Tea. “Tea was brought to India by the British but we are now its second largest producers. We serve several variations but nobody knows how we got here,” said Rameesh.
The conference will also talk about the importance of cuisines that are unique to communities in Mumbai such as the Pathare-Prabhus, Konkani Muslims, Kolis and East Indians. Another highlight is a paper on the cuisine of the Bene Israelis, a Jewish community from the Konkan region.