The project is anchored by four women chefs who bring reflection, politics and pleasure back into food. To refigure rice from accompaniment to dish, from object to subject, we mine our own edible archives as chefs, combining our cultural and culinary traditions that revolve around rice. Thus, the focal point of this project will be the rice bowl.
Each meal that we cook becomes an entry into the individual edible archives of the people eating it, as they experience the journey of the rice and it’s accompanying ingredients. Thus we transfer/transform our edible archives into a collective sensory catalogue that belongs to all the people involved in growing, sourcing, cooking and eating the meal.
The Edible Archives stall at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018-19 was curated by Prima Kurien and Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar. Kiran Bhushi and Priya Bala participated as guest chefs. All four share a similar sensibility as fellow women chefs, focusing on clean flavours and fresh ingredients, combined with rigorous culinary techniques. Prima and Anumitra bring these aspects together to offer a unique curatorial take on food culture and its possibilities for artistic and ecological harmony. Shalini Krishan and Manoj Parameswaran documented the food culture and knowledge collected and produced by this project.
Prima Kurien is a specialist in traditional Malayali cuisine, working for almost two decades to popularize the cuisine as a caterer, author and consultant. She has collaborated with high-end restaurants such as Diva and Mahabelly, as well as consulted with the Andaz-Hyatt hotels. Her strength lies in adapting and simplifying complex traditional processes to suit modern environments without compromising the authenticity and flavour of the food. She collaborated with the India International Centre, New Delhi for ‘The Kerala Food Festival’ in 2016, and with Chefs Cresentia Scolt and Ravitej Nath for the Malayali and Goan Food Festival, 2017, amongst many other food festivals, fairs, pop-ups and projects. Prima is the author of Kerala Kitchen (Roli Books, 2007). She is also an art evaluator and exhibition designer, who has been instrumental in the careers of many contemporary artists, and the founder of Art Gallery Inc. (1995–2003).
Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar is a professional chef, most recently with Diva, a group of predominantly Italian fine-dining restaurants in New Delhi. Her culinary training began with her family’s Bengali food, but she has worked in Japanese, Thai and Italian restaurants in Southeast Asia and South Africa, as well as in India. She recently curated ‘Smoked, Steamed and Tempered’, an event showcasing the ingredients and cooking techniques of Northeast India for the University of Chicago’s Alumni Centre in New Delhi. She presented the opening dinner for the India International Centre’s annual Arts Festival in 2017, and the opening lunch for Market Place 2018 near Calcutta, an event bringing together organic farmers, chefs and restaurateurs from all over the world to exchange ideas on how to bring indigenous ingredients to the marketplace. Anumitra was the owner and chef of Big Bongg Theory, a modern Bengali restaurant in New Delhi and she ran Bento Bong, an annual Bengali food stall for three years. She holds a PhD in Cognitive Linguistics from the University of Delhi; her rigorous research background allows her to also view food through the lens of cultural history.
Kiranmayi (Kiran) Bhushi is a professor, author and chef. She began her culinary career as a guest chef at Leo’s Lunch Room in Chicago and Red Head Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She also started a catering outfit called Southern Girls with an American friend, Kim Zesiger. Later, in New Delhi, she co-founded Gunpowder, a restaurant serving Peninsular cuisine from all six South Indian states, framing a menu that drew largely from home-style cooking. Now that she grows food at her farm, Kafalia, in Uttarakhand, she has become acutely aware of the culture, politics and the sustainability of growing, cooking and eating. Kiran holds a PhD in Sociology from JNU which she uses in her scholarly engagement with food. She designed and taught a course on Food and Society at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is the editor of an anthology, Farm to Fingers: Culture and Politics of Food in Contemporary India (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
Priya Bala is a senior journalist, restaurant critic and author. Her culinary specialty is Sri Lankan cuisine, but she also works with the cuisines of southern Tamil Nadu. She began her journalistic career with the Times of India in Mumbai and later moved to Bangalore, where she was the editor of the Bangalore Times and author of several editions of the Times Food Guide (Bengaluru). From there, she branched into more serious writing, with her first book being Foodprints: A Trail of Meals and Memories (Popular Prakashan, 2014). She has subsequently co-authored Start Up Your Restaurant (HarperCollins 2016) and Secret Sauce: Inspiring Stories of Great Indian Restaurants (HarperCollins 2018) with Jayanth Narayanan. Priya continues to write about travel for Discover India magazine, on food for Upper Crust and literary pieces for the Hindustan Times, alongside her weekly restaurant review for the Bangalore Times. She also consults with restaurants and businesses in both India and Sri Lanka.
Shalini Krishan currently works as a consulting editor with Speaking Tiger, an independent publishing house based in New Delhi. She previously worked with Tranquebar, an imprint of Westland Books, Roli Books and Dorling-Kindersley. She brings her experience of working with Survivors Against TB, a community-based movement led by a group of TB survivors; with them she developed written and audio-visual advocacy materials aimed at encouraging a more patient-focused approach to nation-wide interventions in TB care and infection control. Shalini is a committed queer feminist with significant experience in the organization, daily functioning and archiving of various queer activist and resource groups. She was a founding member of Qashti, a resource center and space for and by lesbian, bisexual, trans*, queer identified (LBTQ) people and has been a member of the core working group in other LGBTQ collectives, such as the Delhi Queer Pride Committee.
Manoj Parameswaran began taking photos as a hobby when he was seventeen years old, while being involved in environmental activism. He specialized in fashion photography from J. D. Institution of Fashion Technology in Bangalore, and worked for several years in the fashion industry, before moving on to graphic design. After a stint in advertising and a short period designing book covers for publishing houses, he embraced photography as a calling. For the past fifteen years, Manoj has been traveling across India, taking intimate, real-life portraits, as well as travel and street photography. He is also a performance photographer, working with theatre artists, Buto dancers and, for the past eleven years, focusing on Koodiyattam, a traditional performance art of Kerala that combines elements of dance and theatre. He has worked with international cultural organizations, such as the Japan Foundation and Pro Helvetia and published photo stories in The Man and on online portals such as Azhimukham.com and 101India.com. Apart from photography, he has been involved with film-making (including Anamika Haksar’s film, Taking the Horse to Eat Jalebis), been a singer and songwriter, and continues to work with graphic design. He can be found on Facebook at Manoj Parameswaran Photography.