We are what we eat. Or, are we?
The theme for the second issue of Clay Pot stems from this simple question.
Eating is an intensely personal act. What we eat (or do not eat) reflects our cultural background, our beliefs, our ideologies and, more or less, what we identify with as an individual. Eating, then, becomes a highly political act. In society, our food choices decide whether we blend in or stand out. They open a small window into the numerous stories we carry within ourselves. Stories of our families, our cultures, our journeys, our rebellions.
Food, much like language, has always been a vehicle of cultural expression.
And, the relationship between food and identity is complex and highly interesting. Our food habits are carefully constructed over years of cooking, feeding, and eating. They talk not just about who we are and where we come from, but also about where we are headed to.
The Identity Issue, thus, becomes a foray into how food acts as a mechanism of identity creation and formation, and establishes cultural, ethnic, spiritual and social norms.
While talking about identities, it is usually the personal that comes to the forefront. It is no surprise then that this issue is dominated by personal stories of explorations into one’s identity through food. In A Taste Of Faith, Nilofar Shamim Haja writes about how the trajectories of her food choices led her to embrace new ideologies at different stages in her life. The essay delves into the intertwined intricacies of food and faith, and how an individual has to steer through these cross-cutting networks, given the immense societal pressure to conform.
In Things I’ve Eaten Off The Ground, Brianna Minks talks about how foraging for food as a child shaped her identity as a woman. While Sheri Linder writes about how her daughter found her faith not in a synagogue, but in a kitchen miles away from home in The Transmission Of Tradition, Amelia Carl welcomes a new member into her family’s fold in That Sweet Potato Fluff.
What’s In Your Fridge, asks Natalie Hardwick in her piece that explains why our fridges are the microphones, if our food were to speak for us. This essay is a collaborative work with photographer Tanya Houghton, whose striking images that document fridges in London homes add further texture to the narrative. Another photo story that shines through in this issue is Bangkok-based photographer Akkara Naktamna’s Spiritual Offerings. It showcases a range of food offerings left behind for the Gods in the streets of Thailand. These pictures lend us an insight into different shades of hope, faith and belief.
Loss of identity is also explored widely in this issue. Anjuly Mathai reminisces the crunchy snacks her Syrian Christian grandmother used to cook up in A Legacy Of Loss, and Bill Cushing bids goodbye to many of his favourite eateries in the poignant piece, A Eulogy For Eateries. We also take a close look at two communities that are shaped by their culinary heritage in A Bitter Cup Of Tea and Forgotten Flavours.
I am happy and proud that we are experimenting both in terms of the stories we tell and also the formats in which we choose to tell them. Our poetry section is going strong with two very touching portraits of motherhood and the resonances that this role has with the shaping of our culinary identities. And, we also have a few surprises in store for you. The effort to include diverse perspectives continues, and moving forward, we hope that Clay Pot will attract more such strong voices and an engaged following of readers.
So here’s to our second issue, on food and the self, narrated to you by some fresh, bold voices. Enjoy the feast.
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