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Cooking in Times of War: The Humanizing Potential of the Kitchen

This past summer, I spent five weeks in Delhi recording oral histories with survivors (among others) of the anti-Sikh violence of 1984. The first week of November 1984, almost exactly thirty years ago, was a week of horrific state-sponsored violence – rapes, burnings, lootings, against the Sikh population of Delhi. Recording oral histories, especially with those who had witnessed the violence first-hand, was a strange intellectual and emotional process. Recording oral histories made me more keenly aware of the privileges I have been afforded, and it made me constantly reevaluate and rethink my position as an American university-funded ‘researcher’ engaging in ‘fieldwork.’

One such moment was when I entered the home of one of the ‘1984 widows’ in Tilak Vihar (which is often referred to as the ‘Widow Colony,’ as it is where most of the survivors of the 1984 violence were relocated by the state). The homes ‘provided’ by the state to the widows are tiny two room apartments, and entering one such flat was at once eye-opening, disheartening, and heartwarming. As I registered (I don’t think I ever did – in fact, I think I still am) that this was one of the flats I had read, ‘researched,’ and written about and that numerous interviewees had been referring to these very flats, I was offered a glass of water and greeted by the white noise of the same TV commercials I had been hearing all summer. I realized that this flat, while it can be quantified and written about in reports and investigations, had become, in the thirty years since the violence, someone’s home. In the small living- and bedroom, there were bright red curtains, a TV, a coffee table, and – here is where the connection to Tasty Tufts comes in – I was smelling the same aromatic base of onions, ginger, and garlic that one smells in almost any South Asian home. I heard talk of making dal and chawal (rice) from the adjoining kitchen; the voices could very much have been my mother’s or father’s, though they were thousands of miles away.

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Bake Your Own Granola

If you absolutely love the crunchy goodness that is granola, you’ll love this next piece of news: granola is extremely easy to make, way cheaper than whatever you’ll get at cafés, and potentially healthier than the other snacks you’d otherwise be snacking on, unless your de-stressing dessert is greek yoghurt or berries. Read more

Grocery Run: H-Mart in Central Square

There’s a new player in the Tufts-area grocery scene, and I think you should check it out. Korean-American grocery H-Mart, which is one of the largest Asian grocery chains in the country, opened in a spacious storefront just off Central Square. Read more

Did You Know That…

Here are 10 interesting food facts that you may not and do not really need to know. Enjoy and be shocked, grossed out, intrigued and maybe even a little bit worried!

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Foodie Film Reviews: Chef and The Hundred Foot Journey

Chef:

Written, produced, and directed by John Favreau, the summer hit film Chef is very much his brainchild. Favreau also plays the protagonist, Carl, an innovative chef whose culinary creativity is stifled by his restaurant manager. After a mortifying altercation with a food critic goes viral, Favreau quits his job and starts a food truck in his hometown of Miami, rediscovering his passion for cooking and reconnecting with his young son on a multi-state road trip adventure back to L.A. The movie will give you your fill of celebrity sightings, with a plethora of A-listers occupying minor roles throughout the film: Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr. pop in and out of the plotline.

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Eating Clean

If “food is (but) fuel”, then eating clean is an unnecessary lifestyle choice. Fortunately, what we imbibe has an importance far greater than the kilojoules it provides. “You are what you eat,” and eating clean helps to make sure that what you put into your body is what your body needs, not what advertisers need you to want. Read more

Aromatic Bases Around the World

What is an aromatic base? While your mind may not be familiar with the term, chances are your nose and mouth are. Aromatic bases are the fragrant aromas coming from the kitchen and the deep, rich flavors you taste in cuisines across the world. Interestingly enough, whether a dish is cooked in Italy or across oceans in India, it may share many of the same base flavors that make the taste so great. Throughout cultures, the bases may have different names, ratios, or ingredients, but their spirit is the same, as is often the preparation. Generally, cooking an aromatic base involves sweating its ingredients in a designated fat until the vegetables are transparent. Letting them brown or sizzle means they are not cooking to their full flavorful extent. But now, let’s take a closer look into the flavor combinations that drive our favorite foods.

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