Whether 2016 was a good year for you or not, it’s hard to deny that it was a rather eventful one, not just on the international stage, but on home turf as well. However, to paraphrase the wonderful writer Anne Lamott, who said the more cr*p that happens, the more writing material there is, 2016 has also provided us with some exceptional jounralism. The world of food writing is no exception. The way that the events of the past year have impacted the way we eat and view food has been documented, and superbly so. Here are some of our favourites in the context of the big events that shaped the last year.
In addition to worrying about eating mindfully and cooking at home instead of ordering in, it turns out we also have to worry about the quality of the produce we're cooking with. In that context, it is comforting to learn that the world's first fully organic state is located right here in India. Sikkim rejected the use of pesticides, GMOs and chemical fertilisers and is now officially the first state in the world where every farmer is growing organic. Over a journey that spanned 13 years, learn how Sikkim's government worked with farmers, giving them the tools to make this switch. Amrita Gupta reports on the Food Radio Project, a podcast that focuses on food systems in India. Sikkim: The First Organic State.
The humanitarian crisis in Syria escalated in 2016, and saw the loss of more than 450,000 lives and over 12 million people displaced. Besides this, there is also the immeasurable loss of intangible cultural heritage to contend with. Remembrance of Tastes Past by Wendell Steavenson gives us a glimpse into what it’s like for Syrian immigrants trying to recreate the flavours of home in their adoptive lands. Remembrance of Tastes Past.
Trump coming to power will be the start of a new era in American politics. Like the shot that was heard around the world, this ‘unpresidented’ move has the potential to resonate around the world. This review by Tina Nguyen takes a long, hard look at Trump Grill, the restaurant located in Trump HQ, Trump Towers. It is one of the best restaurant reviews we’ve read this year because it is as much a political commentary as it is, well, a restaurant review. Trump Grill Could Be The Worst Restaurant in America.
Closer to home, the echoes of intolerance still linger. This includes conflict on the grounds of what is permissible to eat, and who gets to decide this. In Kerala, a state that has historically been the least susceptible to communal incitement, things are slowly changing too. Shahnaz Habib writes for The Goya Journal about her taste of shifting tides of power in God’s Own Country. When Secularism is No Longer Served at the Onam Sadhya.
Restaurant culture is as important as it has ever been. Yet, what goes on behind the scenes is often shrouded in mystery. How does that impeccably plated dessert that mimics a forest floor get to your table? How do the members of the kitchen staff work together like the parts of a machine? In this piece by Rudraneil Sengupta and Pradip Kumar Saha, we get a minute-by-minute account of how the magic is created in one of the top restaurants in New Delhi, Lavaash by Saby, from the moment the restaurant opens in the morning until the lights are out, long after midnight. Behind the Kitchen Door.
2016 was also the year that saw Britain and Europe at a crossroads. Britain’s membership in the EU brought in produce from Europe: soft wine and cheese, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, garlic. The EU food policy kept Europeans healthier, safer and better fed. With Brexit, one of the many unforeseen consequences was that of food sovereignty. In a country that produces only fifty-four per cent of what it eats, Britain's ability to feed itself is now in question. What Brexit Means For British Food.
The standards for food journalism have been pushed just that much higher by the highly acclaimed Netflix documentary, Chef’s Table, directed by Clay Jeter, Brian McGinn, Andrew Fried and David Gelb. With incredible cinematography and storytelling that both captivates and educates, this series gives us an unprecedented look into the minds of some of the best chefs of our times – including Gaggan Anand, who runs the first Indian restaurant to ever be named the Best Restaurant in Asia by Restaurant magazine in 2015. Chef's Table.
Of course, arguably the biggest event of 2016 in India was the demonetisation that took place at the end of the year. Still reeling from the repercussion, not enough has been written about its impact on the country's food systems. However, it has left most of us feeling like the only thing we can afford right now is the humble dal-roti. In this vein, we say goodbye to 2016 with a dispatch from Karachi, an ode to the simple but magnificent dal fry, by Annie Ali Khan. A Pre-Dawn Daal Fry in Karachi.
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