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Posts Tagged ‘society’

Whiteness, Food Colors, and Food Culture

In How on 4 September 2015 at 8:00 am

Food Colors and Food Culture

“No race ever yet ate black bread when it could get white; nor even brown, yellow, or other mulatto tint.”

Dr. Woods Hutchinson in McClure’s magazine, 1906.

In the mass conversion towards refined and processed foods that has swept much of the world over the past few generations, many foods normally occurring in a wide variety of earth tones, became white, as if a formidable fairness cream had descended upon the food industry.   White flour, white sugar, white bread, white spaghetti, white rice, white upma ravva, white urad dal occupied the markets.  At first a status symbol for those who could afford them, refined foods later became a status symbol for those who need not eat the coarser grains because they lived a delicate life and could hire workers to do their heavy lifting for them.  Eventually they themselves became cheaper than their whole grain counterparts, while the nutritious polish and peels were diverted to the livestock industry.

Thirty years ago, Sidney Mintz unpacked the social, economic and political context of food in his seminal work, Sweetness and Power.  The history of whiteness and power with respect to food offers much to explore.   While evolutionary biology may account for our predilection towards the quick calories that processed foods offer, taste and food habits evolve under a variety of influences and cultural messages.  Read the rest of this entry »

Black Gram Matters

In Recipes, When on 1 September 2015 at 2:04 am

Since when are idlis white?

Not more than a few generations.    And if you look at all things that have become white over the past century, one by one they are regaining their color.   White bread, white pasta, white flour, white sugar, white rice are now recognized as more or less empty calories and are being replaced by their whole counterparts, on the brown to black side of the color spectrum.  It is time for idlis to do the same.

Soaked Urad - bursting out of its skin!

Black Gram (Urad): Soaked and ready to burst out of its skin!  Urad or Black Gram attracts wild yeast from the air.  As it ferments, the yeast makes the batter rise.

What are idlis made of?  Black gram and rice.   Or black gram and millets. Read the rest of this entry »

Why doesn’t Gandhi have clothes?

In Why on 25 August 2015 at 2:24 pm

We were recently reading a book on Grandpa Gandhi to my 3 yr old.  The picture of Gandhi with his naked body caught her imagination and she got started on her “why?”   It started out with me explaining that Gandhiji doesn’t wear a shirt and ending in why do the poor not have any money.  Here is part of our conversation:

Gandhi spinning cotton on the charkha. Image: WIkimedia Commons.

Gandhi spinning cotton on the charkha. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

N: Gandhi tata ke paas kapde kyon nahin hain?

Why doesn’t Grandpa Gandhi have clothes?

M: Kyonki unke pas paise nahin the… wo garib the.

Because he did not have money.  He was poor.

[At this Bala corrected me with a better answer/correct reason.]

M: Kyonki wo garib logon ki tarah rahna chahte the.  

Because he wanted to live like the poor.

N: kyon? Why?

Read the rest of this entry »

Maternity Leave: Another reason to say Jai Bhim!

In Call to Action on 15 August 2015 at 8:00 am

idcelebration

Observing India’s 69th Independence Day, the Association for India’s Development published a website featuring a tribute to Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who fought against caste oppression and is known as the architect of India’s constitution.   Article 42 of India’s Consitution provides for maternity leave, as follows:

Article 42 of the Constitution of India 1949

Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief the State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

And in fact Ambedkar spoke publicly about this nearly 20 years before at the Bombay Legislative Assembly.   Read the rest of this entry »

Reusable menstrual hygiene products: pros and cons

In What on 13 May 2015 at 12:46 pm

It was just after noon in Mumbai.  Our book club was just winding up and people were chatting in the cafe.  A woman called me aside and said, “is it really such a drawback to forget the date of your periods?”  She was referring to an article that appeared in the newspaper, where I called the “worst thing about the menstrual cup” the fact that wearing it made the days of one’s period feel so normal, that one could forget about it altogether.   “I meant it ironically,” I explained.  It’s like saying, “my worst fault is that I am too generous.”  “Oh!”  she smiled.

So when Bindu Mohanty of the #PeriodofChange Campaign asked me for a frank opinion on the pros and cons of reusable menstrual hygiene products, I almost began to reply in the same tenor.  Because, after all, are there in fact any cons?

Silhouette-of-ten-women Read the rest of this entry »

Disposable Pads: The Medium and the Message

In What on 11 May 2015 at 8:00 pm

What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of disposable pads?  (If there are no pros you can list only cons.) 

 –   A blogger in Chandigarh

women talking shadowWhen asked to write about the pros and cons of disposable menstrual products, I remembered what a friend told me when she decided to give cloth pads a try.  Her mother was aghast.  Why do you want to do all that washing every month? she asked.  I was so glad when disposable sanitary napkins appeared in the market, I thought at last my daughter won’t go through all the same toil I went through during those bloody periods.

Why indeed?  Her daughter, my friend, proceeded to list the various negative health and environmental impacts of disposable pads and said that she didn’t want them next to her skin, she didn’t want to generate so much trash, and she wanted to practice a solution that would be affordable on a modest income.  That it would provide livelihood locally pleased her as well.

Her mother relented.  If disposable pads had so many cons maybe the time spent washing cloth was not wasted after all.

But was that, in fact, the only pro? Read the rest of this entry »

New La Leche League Leader in Town

In News & Notes on 3 November 2014 at 8:01 am
Please join AskAmma in congratulating Chetana Amma for completing the training to become a certified La Leche League Leader.
La Leche League, an organization founded more than 50 years ago when breastfeeding rates had dropped close to 20% in the United States, has helped many millions of families get adequate information, technical, emotional, social and political support to defend the time, space, nourishment and respect for women’s bodies that improve our confidence and enhance our ability to breastfeed.   My mother was a member and I saw the difference it made for her and for my sister.   I too benefitted from the personal support of a La Leche League leader when I experienced difficulty with latch-on in the first days of my daughter’s life.

In India there are communities where women have been breastfeeding for generations, with plenty of support from their families and neighbours. Increasingly however, women are finding themselves without critical support for breastfeeding in the time of need.  Breastfeeding rates are dropping in urban as well as rural parts of India. Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming Nanna …

In Field Notes on 4 October 2014 at 3:22 pm

Anand takes a moment to collect his thoughts on the journey to becoming Nanna to three-week-old Anagha. 

Anand's newborn daughter Anagha.

Anand’s newborn daughter Anagha.

Life has always been kind to me. Fortunately I never had a big testing moment and I think one of the biggest decisions if not the most for me was about the place where my baby would be making it into the world. Thanks to my friend Chetana Kulkarni, who is leading advocacy efforts on natural birth and breast feeding awareness as part of Banglore Birth Network, me and my wife Anusha Debbadi made an educated decision in choosing Healthy Mother Sanctum.  Their website is http://healthy-mother.com/.

Read the rest of this entry »

Has your baby doubled her birth weight?

In How on 13 September 2014 at 1:12 pm

When do babies double their birth weight? 

I’ve heard this question so often these days, yet it was not a topic that came up regularly when I was a new mother.  When in doubt, blame the internet.  Sure, we had plenty  internet in 2003 but we didn’t have such ready means of comparing baby weights and collecting ever more factoids over which we could check our status and see how well we were or weren’t keeping up with the Joneses.

So, compared to the new mothers of today who give their babies age  in weeks and continue giving the age to the tenth decimal place,  I actually don’t know exactly when my daughter doubled her birth weight but I can say it was between the age of 7 and 8 months.

Babies on the train.  It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.

Babies on the upper berth. It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.  But they are enjoying the train!

Read the rest of this entry »

Arise, then, women of this day!

In Art, Call to Action, Poems on 11 May 2014 at 8:05 am

Let us rouse ourselves once again with the urgent proclamation of Julia Ward Howe for peace on earth, responsible society and solidarity among women. 

Mothers’ Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Artist: Emeka Okoro.  From Fine Art America

Artist: Emeka Okoro. From Fine Art America

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, Read the rest of this entry »

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