It unites as much as it divides. It could be controversial enough to create national outrage, or it could be the everyday routine that is not important enough to be discussed. It is as much the picture of a gourmand patting his inflated tummy in satisfaction, as it is the heart-rending sight of desperate eyes that plead while arms swing back and forth, from the car window to the mouth. In the world of molecular gastronomy and fine dining, it gets elevated, even as it is brought to ground in a world where rats gnaw at it, overflows from dustbins where it is unwanted and lies forgotten on well stocked shelves. Nary another life subject that gets as basic as it gets complex – food.
If you look at it, we have always possessed the food wisdom in our culture. There was a time when we regarded our “Bhoomi” as sacred- we gave back to her as much as she has fed us; practised sustainable agriculture that kept the land as fresh as its produce, grew animals in our backyard and treated them gently, and listened to our bodies and ate wisely.
Food then became a revolution – we used science and technology to get more, eat better and make sure no one goes to bed hungry. As a result of which, today, we can boast of self-sufficiency in production; we are spoilt for choice with food from the world over filling our cities, street carts to round-the-corner eateries. Today, we are also a very worried nation. 2 million of our children are lost every year to malnutrition, our farmers kill themselves in desperation and foodgrains rot even as we come up with bizarre equations to exclude people while talking universal food security.
In Anna-Purana, meaning “the completeness of grain”, we discuss food in all its manifestations – as basic succor to stay alive, as a conscious choice that shapes our society, environment and our country’s progress, and as a spiritual pursuit which goes beyond. We go back to basics –is it possible to get healthy farm produce to our homes, minimize the impact our eating habits have on the earth, reuse all the food that gets wasted? We talk about what works in a public distribution system and what really doesn’t. We marvel at the scale at which Akshaya Patra feeds millions of children, and worry about what scale has done to our farm animals. We are honoured to have experts like Kathyayini Chamraj and Seetha Ananthasivan unravel parts of this food conundrum for us.
We get wistful about how food was a family bonding cultural affair in our grandmother’s time. And also realise that the inner core is the same, all that’s changed beyond recognition is the mantle. Perhaps, it is time to shed the new and bring in the old. We hope this issue is as revealing for you as it was for all of us who put it together.
Happy reading, and responsible eating!