When burger met samosa at american center
It was an evening where burgers and samosas were not just eaten but spoken and discussed about too. The Burger and Samosa: A Journey into Indo American Foodscapes — hosted by the Historical Society, US Consulate, along with International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) Calcutta at the American Center on July 6 — was full of food talk and takeaways.
Three speakers — Utsa Ray, Indrajit Lahiri and Kalyan Karmakar — spoke on three different topics, followed by a scrumptious dinner.
From the obvious burger and samosa to Texas Barbecue Chicken Wings, Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream, and Apple Pie, the food spread reflected the theme of the event. While the menu was curated by chef Sanjay Kak, a culinary director at IIHM, the food was prepared by the students of the school. “The menu was divided into three segments — the influence of Indian food on American cuisine, the influence of American food on Indian cuisine, and the combination of the two cuisines that was represented in the form of desserts. The students did a wonderful job by researching on the subjects and two of them even gave a presentation. There were constructive ideas that were taken and included in the final menu,” said Kak.
“Food brings cultures together and has the ability to start a conversation. This event is all about that. I am quite intrigued by some of the things that were said by the speakers today. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a foodie but I know my share of Indian spices and food, especially Hyderabadi cuisine since my wife is from there,” said Jamie Dragon, the director of American Center in Calcutta.
“I think it’s a great initiative by the Historical Society, US Consulate, and IIHM Calcutta to bring the Indo-American foodscapes with some incredible food being cooked and served by the students of IIHM, which was greatly appreciated. This kind of an initiative definitely helps the gastronomic community to understand and appreciate the food cultures of both the countries,” said Suborno Bose, CEO and chief mentor, IIHM Calcutta.
Utsa Ray, food historian, author and a faculty member of the history department of Jadavpur University, spoke on how American food reached the rest of the world and how capitalism connects food, and how “the term authenticity in itself is problematic”. “Even though this wasn’t an entirely academic event, there were people who spoke from different perspectives and that was very interesting. The bloggers and food writers talking on contemporary topics was very informative,” said Ray.
“Everyone knows about the impact of American food in India because of the presence of food chains like McDonald’s and KFC, but very few people know how Indian food is accepted there. So what I tried to show and talk about in my presentation is how an Indian restaurant created a buzz in the US, how our cuisine travelled there, its market share and challenges. The experience was brilliant because the audience was so learned,” said Indrajit Lahiri, a food blogger who spoke on the impact of Indian food in the US.
Kalyan Karmakar, a food and travel writer based in Mumbai, spoke on the impact of American media on the Indian restaurant landscape and prefers the “storytelling style” as it hinges on using personal narratives. “As someone who grew up when India was a closed economy and who was in Calcutta when liberalisation happened and then moved to Mumbai and enjoyed the fruits of it, I felt that I could relate to this. I look at things through the lens of culture,” said Karmakar, who thinks there has been “a resurgence of the old spirit” as Calcutta is becoming more open to experimentation.
Text: Nandini Ganguly. Pictures: Rashbehari Das