Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India

Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India

by Colleen Taylor Sen

Hardcover(New Edition)

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From dal to samosas, paneer to vindaloo, dosa to naan, Indian food is diverse and wide-ranging—unsurprising when you consider India’s incredible range of climates, languages, religions, tribes, and customs. Its cuisine differs from north to south, yet what is it that makes Indian food recognizably Indian, and how did it get that way? To answer those questions, Colleen Taylor Sen examines the diet of the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years, describing the country’s cuisine in the context of its religious, moral, social, and philosophical development.
Exploring the ancient indigenous plants such as lentils, eggplants, and peppers that are central to the Indian diet, Sen depicts the country’s agricultural bounty and the fascination it has long held for foreign visitors. She illuminates how India’s place at the center of a vast network of land and sea trade routes led it to become a conduit for plants, dishes, and cooking techniques to and from the rest of the world. She shows the influence of the British and Portuguese during the colonial period, and she addresses India’s dietary prescriptions and proscriptions, the origins of vegetarianism, its culinary borrowings and innovations, and the links between diet, health, and medicine. She also offers a taste of Indian cooking itself—especially its use of spices, from chili pepper, cardamom, and cumin to turmeric, ginger, and coriander—and outlines how the country’s cuisine varies throughout its many regions.
Lavishly illustrated with one hundred images, Feasts and Fasts is a mouthwatering tour of Indian food full of fascinating anecdotes and delicious recipes that will have readers devouring its pages.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780233529
Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date: 02/15/2015
Series: Foods and Nations Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,233,499
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Colleen Taylor Sen lives in Chicago, where she is an independent food historian and writer specializing in Indian cuisine and the author of several books, including Curry: A Global History, also published by Reaktion Books. 

Table of Contents


1. Climate, Crops and Prehistory

2. The Age of Ritual, 1700-1100 BCE

3. The Renunciant Tradition and Vegetarianism, 1000-300 BCE

4. Global India and the New Orthodoxy, 300 BCE-500 CE

5. New Religious Trends and Movements: Feasting and Fasting, 500-1000 CE

6. Food and Indian Doctors, 600 BCE-600 CE

7. The Middle Ages: The Manasolassa, Lokopakara, and Regional Cuisines, 600-1300 CE

8. The Dehli Sultanate: Ni’matnama, Supa Shastra and Ksemakutuhalam, 1300-1550

9. The Mughal Dynasty and its Successors, 1526-1857

10. The Europeans, the Princes and their Legacy, 1500-1947

11. An Overview of Indian Cuisine: The Meal, Cooking Techniques and Regional Variations

12. New Trends in Indian Food, 1947-Present

13. The Food of the Indian Diaspora



Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


Customer Reviews