Issue 9 Food for Thought:
Food, Embodiment, and Knowledge

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Note From The Editors

The paradox of studying food is that scholars necessarily rely on the very instruments of discourse that reify a hierarchy of the senses designed to render food unworthy of serious thought: Images and texts appeal to the “higher” sense of sight; they “figure the material as intellectual, imaginative, symbolic, aesthetic,” Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson claims (2004, 17). Reason cannot be found in the “lower” senses while eating reminds us too much of our body’s needs. But Krishnendu Ray reminds us that “much of the sociology of the body continues to be devoted to theoretical argumentation focussed on gender, sexuality, and disease, belying the sense that all social action {…} is always embodied” (2016, 26).

Read more in the Note From the Editors

Today’s Special

Bamboo image



Mary saved the best shoots for the house when they started emerging out of loamy soil from their backyard at Sircep in Mizoram. “All are best but some are cut above the rest. How do we know this? During the bad years, these are the shoots that the little rats attack the first. Someone told me rats and humans share a lot in common. Perhaps it is the food. Touché,” Mary says immediately grabbing a piece of wood that May. By July, Chinzah, her husband grew desperate. He was waiting for the weekly market to start so that he could reach first and sell of all the bamboo shoot. “It rained so hard last few weeks in June. I will have to sell this off before the real monsoon sets in, else all of it will rot,” Chinzah said while preparing to leave for the market.

The children came home early that day. When they were leaving for school they overheard Chinzah telling Mary that she should prepare some pork and rice for supper as he will come back with his friends. Mary’s kitchen was filled with pungent smells of young shoots slowly melting pork fat with spinach, when children entered the house. “Is Papa buying me the new football today?” asked the elder one. “Wait till he comes. The house needs repairs too. Pray that all of it sells,” she told the children.

By evening, Mary had changed the curtains, flowers in the vase, fixed a leaking tap and put a new table cloth. It was five in the evening. “Two hours to supper. Looks like I was super-efficient today … So the boys are not going to drink at home this evening and come straight for supper,” she wondered. The children also returned from the football ground and started to hover around the kitchen. At about, 6:30 the youngest of the lot, Tetei, started clapping her hands, when saw two flashlights near the doorstep. “He’s back! Daddy’s back!” saying this Tetei woke-up Angel, her exhausted elder sister.

Mary went to unlock the door, when she saw Ramanga, Chinzah’s friend helping her husband to climb the stairs. “Tell the children to go back to bedroom,” Chinzah said. She noticed that the large sack of bamboo shoot was not there. “It seems we are thieves. The bamboo that grows in our backyard is not ours,” said an angry Ramanga helping his friend to settle on the couch.
“Who called you a thief? What happened?” she asked trying to sift through the first aid to cover Chinzah’s bruised feet. “They have passed a new law that makes all the bamboo shoot collection illegal in this country,” Chinzah blurted out.

In 2012, Mizoram barred its residents from selling bamboo shoot in the open market. Aided by Young Mizo Association, the state administration came down heavily on the indigenous tribes eking a living out of Bamboo shoot to run paper mills in Assam. Chinzah and many others lost their livelihoods that July.

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