Indian food: a historical companion
Indian food is often thought of as 'an exotic cuisine'. This Companion outlines the enormous variety of cuisines, food materials and dishes that collectively fall under the term 'Indian food'. The dominant flavour of this gastronomic Companion is historical. It draws upon material from a variety of sources - literature, archaeology, epigraphic records, anthropology, philology, and botanical and genetic studies - which throw up a gamut of interesting facts pertaining to the origins and evolution of Indian food. The first few chapters are arranged chronologically, beginning with prehistoric times and ending with British rule. One chapter is solely devoted to regional cuisines, though these find mention in other chapters as well. The theories and classification of food as codified by ancient Indian doctors (Charaka, Sushrutha, and Bhagvata, c. third to fourth centuries AD), is the subject of one whole chapter. Another, titled, 'Indian Food Ethos', deals with the customs, rituals and beliefs observed by different communities and religious groups. There is, at a number of places, considerable discussion on the etymology of food-words and their interplay with words in other Indian and foreign languages. The accounts of foreign visitors, such as Xuan Zang and Al Biruni, are cited for the food available as well as the food practices of those bygone times. A chapter on the history of meat eating and the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and the gradual shift towards vegetarianism with the advent of Buddhism and Jainism, is equally rich in detail. Sophisticated cooking accoutrements such as the baking oven, liquor distillation unit, and other illuminating facts are presented in a chapter titled'Utensils and Food Preparation'. In short, this Companion is a rich storehouse of fascinating information on Indian food and everything connected with it.
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