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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.

Bamboo image

Bamboo

BAMBUSA VULGARIS

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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