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

Homepage Intro Content

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

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Saurabh “Newton” Paul stayed up all night drinking in his college dorm after returning back from his summer holidays to start a new year.  After having a heavy breakfast on that humid July morning, Newton slept peacefully till afternoon only to be woken up by a power cut. Irritated by all the sweat and noise outside his room, Newton decided to abandon sleep for yet another day of debauchery and celebration to mark the start of the academic year. It seemed some people had just arrived with goodies from home. He ventured to one of the rooms.

A short young man and the college football team’s goalkeeper were eating, sharing stories about the holidays. Newton, drained by the sweat, suddenly decided that food might just keep all the heat and the humidity away. The young man, a resident of Nagaland in India’s north-east had just returned with some pickle from home. “Hey man! Go easy on the pickle. This is a very deadly chilli,” warned the young boy offering him a piece with two slices of bread. Newton’s memories of having fresh chilli pickle suddenly took over him; he likened the pungent smell to spicey pickle that his mother would make. “I can lots of chilli pickle,” Newton. The goalkeeper placed a bet of Rs. 100 against Newton eating one whole chilli. However, to test waters, Newton decided to play safe and wanted to examine it first. These chillies are a mix of red, green and yellow and grow in several parts of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.  Newton tried the bamboo shoot first, which usually accompanies these chillies. “What is this? It smells foul but tastes nice. I think I can easily eat the pickle if you can do away with bamboo shoot,” was his immediate reaction.

The young man smiling at him urged him to eat the chillies as well. Newton ate one. For an eternity of a second, Newton appeared as if nothing happened. Then suddenly, he started running. He ran to the bathroom, almost blinded by the pungency! Later that evening, he was found eating jaggery near the student’s dining hall bhy his companions, well ahead of the dinner time and covered with sweat. Sticking his tongue out, Newton asked the young man, “What the hell was that you gave me this afternoon?”

“That’s what we export to the police in many countries …,” laughed the young Naga lad, “they use it for crowd control. It’s called Raja Mircha.”

Putting the bottle away, he added: “But it does not work on me, man.”

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