19 December 2008

Indian Institute of Food

As we enter the age of instant food and general migration within the country the one area we are sure to loose a lot of information is our age old food culture. I am specifically talking about recipes and regional cuisine. We live in a country where language, food and customs change every 300 kms (approximately, based on my general perception). The only way to sustain this diversity is if we conserve it. Therefore I propose to invest my millions (which I might make or borrow) in the Indian Institute of food (IIF).

The mandate of this institute would be three fold:
  1. It will archive and store recipes within a given geographical perimeter. All ingredients (vegetables and spices) of recipes to also be archived.
  2. It will make all the information it collects available free of cost.
  3. It will hold cooking classes, not only in the cuisine it specializes in but also import the know how on other cuisines being investigated by other IIFs.
Each IIF will be a local institution but networked into a much larger chain of IIFs. Its board would be constituted of neighbourhood grannies, popular restaurant chefs (this includes pavement golgappawallas), food bloggers and anyone who gets about 200 people to certify that he can make certain dishes very well. The one flaw I already foresee is that the ego of aforementioned personnel would make it difficult to come to a consensus on the recipe for any one item. Therefore I also propose that multiple entries be archived. The initial investment would only be that of infrastructure - building, cooking toys and computational power. The community would have to sustain the costs of the institute by providing catering services and cooking classes.

I haven't overlooked the wonderful work food bloggers are doing archiving their family recipes. In fact the only reason I know about food blogging is through the wonderful effort of N at One Hot Stove. But these efforts still do not encompass the whole breadth of Indian cooking knowledge because they are distilled efforts based on the food bloggers' interest. My idea will hopefully act as a bridge effort between their interests and all other traditional food.

This school would eventually also address such questions of major scientific importance like - When was the first dosa made? How did the British change Indian cuisine? Hey, who decided that there should be onions in my upma? etc.

If any of my readers would like to help me make or lend me the millions for this initiative my lines are open.

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