History on a platter

Updated: Nov 14, 2018, 08:48 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

A weekend talk aims to get some of the city's most loved experts to discuss its food heritage

Tara Deshpande, Kunal Vijayakar, Munaf Kapadia, Brinda Miller
Tara Deshpande, Kunal Vijayakar, Munaf Kapadia, Brinda Miller

Even a decade ago, the word history would conjure images of sepia-toned frames and dates we struggled to keep track of. But history, as we gradually realised, is about stories and people.

And what are people without their food, right? So, can you imagine the robust spectrum of conversations that can surface if we were to attempt a telling of Mumbai's history through its food? And that is exactly what The Bohri Kitchen (TBK) founder Munaf Kapadia, veteran foodie Kunal Vijayakar, and actor-turned-chef Tara Deshpande will aim to do at Past Forward, the second edition of a monthly panel discussion by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya and Kala Ghoda Association.

"Mr Sabyasachi Mukherjee [director general at CSMVS] suggested that we do these talks, which would not be typically academic talks that we have at the museum, but rather the kinds that a lay person can come and enjoy," says Brinda Miller, director of the Kala Ghoda Festival who is the education consultant at CSMVS. These talks will pan cultural art forms including dance, music, theatre, art and food.

Moderated by Vijayakar, the talk will see Deshpande trace the city's food history, whereas Kapadia will touch upon the business aspect of food. He tells us, "I'll be speaking about how opportunity exists in niche cuisines and culinary heritage. And the challenges that I've faced in converting it into a sustainable business."

For Deshpande the goal is to highlight the confluence of economics, history and culture, and how these combined forces impact the foodscape of a city. "Mumbai is a city of immigrants, and our food is a reflection of that. For example, there was a phase in Mumbai, between the 1940s and '50s, when a lot of Udipi restaurants were opening. This coincided with the influx of people from places like Mangalore and other parts of Karnataka," she shares, adding that the phenomenon reappeared with the surge of street food and the introduction of dishes like misal pav when the mills of Parel and South Bombay were buzzing centres of industry.

Vijayakar never fails to make us laugh. "I am there for the sex appeal," he jokes. But the truth is that even the food chronicler is excited at the curiosity. "People are getting interested in regional food and heritage cuisines; a few years back I didn't think this was possible. But I am happy to have been proven wrong, even if in small number," he sums up.

ON: November 16, 6 pm
AT: Visitor's Centre Auditorium, CSMVS, Fort.
CALL: 22844519

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