Food and its cultural importance has evolved over decades and so have the mediums that talk of food. There was a time when people would eagerly wait for the next episode of Jiggs Kalra’s Daawat aired on Doordarshan.
Later, Khana Khazana by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor became the go-to show to know more about Indian cuisines and how one can experiment with food. The discourse around food has now moved to modern-day platforms such as microblogs and social media. Another popular medium is the long-form audio format of podcasts. It allows historians, enthusiasts and chefs to craft engrossing ways to talk about food, all while offering nuanced perspectives that blend several disciplines—from the perspective of economics, sociology, and more—to look at the culinary world.
Podcasters use the medium to delve into the history, significance, and culture surrounding food, and, in the process, discuss several recipes as well.
Through a gastronomic lens
The first name that came to chef and author Sadaf Hussain’s (33) mind when he tried to recall a food podcast he listened (or liked to listen) to from the subcontinent, was The Real Food Podcast hosted by food writer Vikram Doctor. “Other podcasts would talk about cities, all interview-based, talking about the same old ghisi piti cheezein (redundant topics),” he comments, ascertaining that he wanted to steer away from the conventional model of content creation.
Hussain’s podcast Naan Curry–it was launched in October, 2020–that he co-hosts with writer and consultant Archit Puri offers novel insights into the world of food. From exploring the history and cultural nuances of Indian cuisine and answering questions about the origin of various ingredients, to delving into understanding how economics, public policy, and politics affects our eating habits—Hussain and Puri have adopted a holistic approach to talk about food through this medium. The podcast is an earnest attempt at offering audiences the resources to understand food—in the episode’s description, Hussain adds links to reading material. The podcast is well-suited for anyone looking to catch playful conversations that are informative and a delight to hear.
Anubhav Sapra, founder of Delhi Food Walks built a connection with food very early in life. After traversing through the khau-gallis in Delhi for years, tasting both global and local flavours, Sapra decided to deliver gastronomic insights he has gathered over the years in his podcast, The Anubhav Sapra Show. Sapra invites culinary experts such as Bengaluru-based writer and blogger Sweta Biswal, Kozhikode-based blogger Shruti Tharayil, and others from various parts of the country to focus on food from different states. The conversation-driven format seeks to bring out the history and specialties of India’s regional cuisine. “Every food has such a rich history. Therefore, stories around the same become extremely necessary,” he states, adding that his podcast is also a peek into the culture of a state, making it well-suited for anyone who wants to learn more about Indian food.
A major breakthrough in the space of talking about food has been through Meher Varma, a South Delhi-based anthropologist who has adopted an ethnographic approach to Indian cuisine through her podcast Bad Table Manners (BTM), streaming since December 2021. BTM covers various food cultures in an attempt to deconstruct the monolithic notions of South Asian food. Verma believes that calling South Asian cuisine a melting point of several cultures is inaccurate. “I don’t believe that there is an ‘even’ melting of different cultures… as in an equal sharing in the making of the pot. BTM disrupts that idea because it shows even celebration of multi-layered, multi-cuisine food, there is always a dominant ideology, power, taste of what gets included and what doesn't,” she shares. Covering topics such as contemporary Indian kitchen design, the cool-ification of Indian food, how the Partition changed India's food scene, etc., BTM delves into several disciplines while keeping food as the focus.
With inputs from Dyuti Roy