Preindustrial elites often displayed their political power their commercial

Preindustrial elites often displayed their political

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Preindustrial elites often displayed their political power, their commercial reach, and their cos- mopolitan tastes by drawing in ingredients, techniques, and even cooks from far and wide. Yet these high cuisines, with their emphasis on spectacle, disguise, and display, always seek to distance themselves from their local sources. The regional idiom is here decisively subordinated to a central, culturally superior, idiom. French haute cuisine is exemplary of this type of high cuisine. In the cases of Chinaand Italy, by contrast, regional cuisines are the hautes cuisines, and no imperial or metropolitan culinary idiom really appears to have achieved hegemony, even today. In the Chinese case, to the degree thata civilizational standard has emerged, it appears to be the colorless common denominator of the complex regional variants. In Italy, at least until very recently, it appears to be impossible to speak of a high, transregional cuisine. 1 The single most important comparative treatment of cuisine from a sociological point of view is found in Goody (1982). In addition to that study, which has provided a good deal of the comparative perspective in this essay, I have also consultedthe following sources for my under- standing of non-Indian culinary traditions: Ahsan (1979); Austin (1888); Chang (1977); Cosman (1976); Forster and Ranum (1979); Furnivall (1868); Revel (1979); Roden (1972); Rodinson (1950); Root (1977); Vehling (1977). Goody (1982) contains an excellent and extensive bibliography. This content downloaded by the authorized user from on Wed, 14 Nov 2012 02:34:26 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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NATIONAL CUISINE: COOKBOOKS IN INDIA 5 In India, we see another sort of pattern, one that is, in some respects, unique. In this pattern the construction of a national cuisine is essentially a postindustrial, postcolonial process. But the traditionalIndian picture has some parallels with those of the other major culinary regions of the world. Like the cooking of ancient and early-medieval Europe, preindustrial China, and the precolonial Middle East, cooking in India is deeply embedded in moral and medical beliefs and prescriptions. As in the Chinese and Italian cases, the premodern culinary traditions are largely regional and ethnic. As in Ottoman Istanbul in the seventeenth century, court cuisines drew on foods and recipes from great distances (Sharar 1975). But in contrast to all these prein- dustrial cases, in India before this century, the emergence of a gustatory approach to food (that is, one that is independent of its moral and medical implications), the related textualization of the culinary realm, and the produc- tion of cookbooks seem to have been poorly developed (Khare 1976a). In the Indian case, the cuisine that is emergingtoday is a national cuisine in which regional cuisines play an important role, and the nationalcuisine does not seek to hide its regional or ethnic roots.2 Like their counterparts in Eng- land and France in the early eighteenth century, the new Indian cookbooks are fueled by the spread of print media and the cultural rise of the new middle classes. As in all the other cases,
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