I remember how I used to be amused by the clever wordplay in that old line - denial is not just a river in Egypt. Then denial got very real and frequent and even necessary in adulthood and the word ceased to amuse, except in self-deprecation. Even then, food seemed like one safe area unlikely to be touched by negativity. Food was good, food was sepia toned nostalgia, food was beloved handwritten cookbooks that were severely frayed at the edges, food was all that was delightfully sinful, orgasmic, positive, happy-memorable. Even in the thick of war, conflict, rebellion or dirty politics, there was an underlying comfort that food brought. At least on the pages of this magazine. We were of course in denial, a wee bit, because we hadn’t had a chance to feature food from the other side, from the not so happy side of the barb wire.
That, Meenakshi Thirukode helps us remedy this time, with her moving, very personal essay on how food became an extension of imposing patriarchy, a tool of control for an ex-husband. It suddenly brings up many more questions, about how food is not always Instagram-ready, not always a thing to look forward to. Food in absentia is a grave concern. World hunger and other ways in which the content, value and importance of food has been varyingly reduced are questions Maja Ciric brings up. Her text is brief, but covers a gamut of issues from society, politics, culture and impact of modern life – crucial questions we hope will stay on your minds for long.
Gloria Kiconco, who charmed our readers a couple of issues ago by writing about what it means to be a woman who cannot cook returns to these pages with another lovely essay on the many different kinds of chilies in the African cuisines she is familiar with. If it needs to be told again, Africa is not a country and Gloria’s essay gloriously dismisses that terrible, and strangely prevalent, assumption.
You cannot talk, write, read enough about the environment these days, we believe. This planet is all we have, though we sometimes live like we have a pick from dozens of others once this is destroyed. We bring you a meticulously researched environment story on how mangroves in South India are very important keys in the sustainability of local communities, of cultures and of course the larger ecosystems. Sonia Mehra Chawla’s essay includes notes on two very interesting, very local systems of fishing that sustain the mangroves and they, in turn, these fishing systems. Everything is connected, we know that, even when we are in denial.
This past October, Forager Collective was in New Delhi, India to install a work; a text we developed was performed as well. The installation was about spaces, or Spaces, if you will, and the constant building and building that ensues when one thing is moved from one place to the other. It was followed by a show in Madrid, Spain where we took the idea of space further. At the Collective, we have been quite occupied with space, in all its meanings. This preoccupation continues in an essay I write here, about the space that a dining table inhabits, be it a tangible piece of wood, a trestle table or the idea of one. Sunoj D’s thought provoking illustrations of a dinner plate and candles that attempt to be part of a perfect table setting bring up futility, denial, and ever shining hope at that which may or may never happen.
Space is such a loaded word.
As a Collective we have been working on a lot of projects. It felt like it was time to give these works their own little corner. Go over to our blog here to see what we have been up to.
You must have noticed that this sixth issue of The Forager is an all-women’s issue. It was not curated to be so. Things just so delightfully fell into place this way, and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of such an assemblage of talented, powerful, strong women.
On the cover we have a working of the beloved Pac-Man, the 1980s computer game most of us would have grown up with. With its continuing popularity, it beats the candies and the birds hands down. On the cover everything seems empty, all eaten up, starved, bleak. It is a disturbingly permeating scenario in these times of the world.
Pardon me, bleakness is too grey a note to end the year with. It is (mostly) a happy issue, I promise, one that I am certain will keep you occupied for a good many hours in the new year.
Oh, one last thing. We will publish once in four months from ’16 onwards. See you all in summer.
Here is wishing you and yours, dear readers, a very happy, healthy, joyous 2016. May your dinner tables be heavy with abundance, good fun, good company and good cheer.
Deepa Bhasthi is a writer based in Bengaluru, India. Her works are available at http://dbhasthi.blogspot.com.
She is one of the founding editors of The Forager.