CLAY POT contributor Aritra Chakrabarthy, whose story A Bite Of Bombay was featured in our Memory Issue, speaks to the team about the importance of discussing how food shapes our society
How did this story idea come to you?
The story of pav bhaji is synonymous with the story of the city of Bombay. Given Clay Pot’s theme of food and food culture, I felt this story would serve well to portray the culture of the city and how it has been shaped by this street food, if peppered with collective oral history. To understand the common culture of any region, food is one of the best mediums that allow us to go back in time and revisit the beginning of society.
What are the challenges you face while writing about food?
Writing about food brings about its own sets of challenges, the most prominent being the lack of right kind of information to substantiate your argument or statement. The literature on the culture surrounding a particular dish is scant and hardly reliable. In such a scenario, one has to get quotes from experts (food historians, food critics and connoisseurs) who are relatively difficult to access.
What are your thoughts on the present situation of food writing? Why do you think is it necessary to discuss food culture?
We do have a certain amount of writing on food, but it revolves around the preparation of food or the journey of the dish in the context of the community. However, writing about the culture of a particular food and the manner in which it shapes up a society is missing from the scene.
It is imperative to share and curate information about our food, which is a part of our oral history. Discussions based on food and culture will reorient our outlook towards cooking as not just a household activity, but as a tradition which is passed on over time, through prosperity and depression alike.
Where can our readers find more of your work?
I curate a blog space, called Bohemian Spaces, which contains poems and short stories. I can also be reached on Instagram (@padatik) through which I try to document the city of Mumbai.