Understanding Taste in India: Social Systems to Digital Spaces

Maya DoddFLAME University

Arundhati AilFLAME University

Food studies includes ideas on the environment, constructions of regional identity and culinary history. Pierre Bourdieu said “taste is the basis of all that one has—people and things—and all that one is for others, whereby one classifies oneself and is classified by others.” In the Indian context, his words find relevance in the way food and taste are hierarchized through the caste system. The Indian caste system was born out of the need to segregate beef and meat-eaters from vegetarians, leading to the classification of people as impure and pure based on their tastes. The caste system has, over the years, acted simultaneously as a creator and reinforcer of such taste hierarchies and culinary history evidences such dominant inscription. With time, however, social mobility has increased and, as Appadurai says in the landmark essay “How to Make a National Cuisine,” the moral implications of food have shifted. Today, food tradition in India is being documented more than ever, with food blogs being as prolifically abundant as comments, reviews and recommendations of food destinations. These recipes and food experiences, situated in the digital space, have begun defining our interactions around food, opening new windows for Indian food studies as a whole. In exploring these shifts in understandings of taste from social systems to digital ones, we will explore changing trends in the documentation of food culture and its implications for community in India.

KEYWORDS: Caste, Cookbooks, India

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