Culinary Fictions : Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture

Anita Mannur

For South Asians, food regularly plays a role in how issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and national identity are imagined as well as how notions of belonging are affirmed or resisted. Culinary Fictions provides food for thought as it considers the metaphors literature, film, and TV shows use to describe Indians abroad. When an immigrant mother in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake”, combines Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts, onions, salt, lemon juice, and green chili peppers to create a dish similar to one found on Calcutta sidewalks, it not only evokes the character’s Americanization, but also her nostalgia for India. Food, Anita Mannur writes, is a central part of the cultural imagination of diasporic populations, and Culinary Fictions maps how it figures in various expressive forms. Mannur examines the cultural production from the Anglo-American reaches of the South Asian diaspora. Using texts from novels – Chitra Divakaruni’s “Mistress of Spices”, and Shani Mootoo’s “Cereus Blooms at Night” – to cookbooks such as Madhur Jaffrey’s “Invitation to Indian Cooking” and Padma Lakshmi’s “Easy Exotic”, she illustrates how national identities are consolidated in culinary terms.