Edible Archives at Kochi Muziris Biennale set to revive native Indian rice strains
While conversing with chef Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar at the Biennale Pavilion, I’m told that nearly a lakh Indian varieties of rice have gone extinct since the 1960s. Each moment in the conversation gave me an understanding of why Edible Archives is aptly part of Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018.
“While working abroad, I encountered chefs who were proud of their indigenous cuisines and went out of their way to find farmers and source ingredients that are not available in the market. I figured that hardly anyone is doing that in India and started reaching out to native agriculturists three years back,” says Anumitra, who has eight years of experience cooking multiple Asian cuisines such as Japanese and Chinese.
So, this week, we trace the artistic, cultural, and historical memories associated with food with this linguist-turned-chef.
Way back home
Anumitra’s earlier experiments consisted of preparing foreign dishes like risotto with Indian rice variants. It was while she was working at the Delhi-based Diva restaurant that Biennale 2018 curator Anita Dube encountered her research and invited her proposal for an art project.
“I immediately took up the offer because I always wanted to work with regional cuisines and wondered what people eat at home,” she says, adding that modern lifestyle is limiting the repertoire of food people consume.
The Edible Archives outlet at Fort Kochi focusses on rice meals—think native varieties like Kerala’s Thavala Kannan—and dishes that utilise seasonal ingredients and are cooked home-style like their pork kovakkai curry.
The rich rice platter I’m served has a sticky and black Bengali kala bhat served alongside creamy dal with blue yam chunks cooked in Odiya style; a banana flower curry with pepper and cardamom the Assamese way; and a Pahadi cauliflower gravy and ladyfish with mustard paste cooked with a Bengali approach.
The pineapple halwa that the chef serves as dessert has a slow-hitting fruity sweetness, but what I take away from my visit is much more
Till March 29