Performing Food: Changes, Continuities and Disjuncts in Urban, Middle Class Cooking in Pune, India

By Shweta Ghosh.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The liberalization of the Indian economy since the 1990s has widened the food market in India, a corollary of which has been the availability of packaged food and foreign products. The dynamics of the market have permeated the increasingly affluent urban middle class households, setting up a trend of negotiation with the ‘exotic foreign’ through an introduction to newly available ingredients, cooking techniques and cuisines. An important factor has also been the advent of coloured, commercial television and the entry of private players, which has enhanced the overall television viewing experience through changes in content, production, transmission and reception of television shows.
One could mark the entry of food shows on national and regional television in India at this point, where cookery is extracted from its routine context and granted a performative facet. Cookery has existed as ‘creative performance’ within the largely male domain of the professional chef, while its mundane aspect has been associated mostly with the female. Once could say, however, that the ‘performance’ of cooking on television has rendered the specialized art accessible to the urban Indian viewer, whether male or female.
This paper seeks to make linkages between food, television, gender and the market economy with pertinent data, in order to address some crucial questions. What makes cooking shift from being a chore to a performance? Has food being performed on television changed overall attitudes and processes of buying, cooking and eating in urban middle class India? It may be argued that the market context has enhanced the scope for a shift in the male and female roles inside and outside the kitchen. The shift from mundane to exotic consumption on television, however, may or may not have invoked the same. Does the ‘modern, Indian’ woman stay on in the kitchen with re-invented reasons to cook?

Keywords: Food, Gender, Television, Market, Liberalization, Consumption, Cookery, Performance, Food Shows, Travel and Lifestyle Shows

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.15-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 681.143KB).

Shweta Ghosh

M.A. Student, Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Shweta Ghosh has recently graduated with an M.A. in Media and Cultural Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She has successfully completed her Master’s thesis titled ‘Performing Food, Eating Spaces and Creating Television’ which is an attempt at understanding the production, representation and reception of identities and spaces on food and travel shows on national and regional television in India. Shweta’s academic interests include food, music, gender and culture. She is currently working as Program Associate at the Centre for Media and Alternative Communication, New Delhi.