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Seasoned

Wency Mendes Ambedkar University Delhi (School of Culture and Creative Expressions) New Delhi (Delhi, India)

Changing human consumption patterns and sustenance have always created new ripples of change.

Be it food for our bodies, or material for industries – all progress via trade, barter, exchange and securities has been founded on systems of creating excess.

Tea traveled the world and so did coffee and cocoa. Indian food may well be synonymous with chili, but chili was not indigenous to India, nor was the potato or tomato. But then, nothing belongs to any one region any more.

Food has traveled from its regions of origin by conquests of colonization or peaceful trade.

Yet, what we cook: does it ‘belong’ to us? Do its flavors?

Or does it belong to memories, cohabiting with all that lives there: childhood games to see who could shell the most peas, moist kitchen floors, the first time you saw blood, and the lavish spread of both birthdays and Tehravin?

What was it for you?  How does food tell your story? Whose stories does it tell as it travels from Gujarat, Manipur, Kashmir, Dantewada to the meal you are here invited to share?

Ingredients

The following are random ingredients from Wency Mendes’s Seasoned - A multi media archive installation. More information about the project can be found on the project website.

Turmeric image

Turmeric

CURCUMA LONGA

When Lily was hit by her alcoholic husband for the first time that summer in Alleppey, her mother begged her not to call the cops. In the second instance when her husband beat her up on that same day after two years of their marriage, her neighbours said that going to a hospital is inviting trouble in the whole area. George kept sleeping throughout that morning, while women from the neighborhood took their turns to visit Lily and her mother. “We are so relieved that you are here with Lily, Bella chechi. Imagine police coming and ruining this marriage. Even doctors do that these days and then courts get involved. If you do not want the police involved, you have to pay all these people. I will tell my husband to speak to George,” a distant aunt of George said this while consoling a semi-conscious Lily and her mother.

Lily wiped her tears, and then her bruised forehead. Puzzled by the yellow-orangish hue on her fingers mixed with blood, tears and sweat, she looked at her mother. “That’s manjal (turmeric). Did you put it?” Lily asked her mother. “No, she did,” her mother pointing to George’s aunt. “How does it matter? What matters is that you and your husband don’t get into any trouble,” the aunt said beaming at her. “Auntie, it is what he becomes after drinking alcohol that worries all of us. He wants to pawn the gold, so that he has enough to drink,” said a teary-eyed Lily.

By evening, the pain on her forehead was gone. Allepey fingers – the variety of turmeric that George’s aunt had smeared on her bruised forehead – that year had fetched the maximum price in the New York multi-commodities exchange for its quality. It is the presence of Curcumin, an organic compound found in Turmeric that decides the quality and it is believed that curcumin heals wounds too. Perhaps, for many of these women who endure their husbands, in-laws and neighbours, mixing turmeric with blood helps to move on. In 2005, the Kerala State Commission for women found that Allepey and a neighbouring district, Malappuram recorded a highest number of cases of domestic violence due to dowry. In 2012, when the commission came back to the district, it recorded 28 such fresh cases.

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