Does the city dweller’s encore of the farmers’ cry of dissent truly strengthen their voice? This, perhaps, is a question many confronted as they marched shoulder-to-shoulder with beleaguered farmers in the Capital, as they sought remunerative prices for their produce and a freedom from debt. “Your plate is where the change starts,” believes food journalist Sourish Bhattacharyya and food creator and presenter, Sanjoo Malhotra, who founded Tasting India in 2015. In its third edition, the four-day symposium, which starts today, has “Eat Right” as its overarching theme. It is designed to encourage conversations around food sustainability and mobility through the promotion of indigenous produce while creating sustainable market links between small-scale farmers and urban consumers.
The symposium comprises workshops and talks. At the inception, an Indian Food Manifesto was floated, modelled along the Nordic Food Manifesto, which advocates the consumption of seasonal and local produce. A workshop with Claus Meyer, credited as the founder of the New Nordic Cuisine philosophy and the co-founder of Noma, will advocate policies centred around trans fats, transparent labeling and nutritious school meals. Other issues to be raised during the caucus are UN’s sustainable development goal of “zero hunger” by 2030 and reducing the carbon footprint of our daily table. This year will also see the launch of the Young Chefs Association for Sustainable India comprising chefs such as Sujan Sarkar, Romy Gill and Justine Horne, among others.
Pitching India as a leading food destination by capitalising on the “soft power” of India’s food traditions and produce is also on the agenda. “When we are promoting India as a destination, we are also promoting its products. In places like Uttarakhand, the farm produce is beautiful and they have started adding value to it by creating jams and chutneys. The destination can become popular for that product, just the way France and Italy have done,” says Malhotra.
Keeping with this year’s theme, Bhattacharya says, “If we don’t eat right, then the farmer is pushed into producing GMO or commercial crops or these high-yielding varieties. If we choose from the wide variety of produce that we have, such as traditional grains, and move towards organic produce, the ultimate beneficiary will be the farmer.”