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The critic, the cookbook and the middle-class diner

03 August 2018 , 0 comments / 1 likes
Have you ever wondered how technology and the middle-class diner influences the food landscape? Or the importance of a food critic and why people publish cookbooks? Acclaimed journalist Vir Sanghvi, in a compelling session at Culinary Chroniclers Conclave, spoke about the changing food scene, why a food critic matters and the importance of chronicling our culinary history.

The food scene in India has seen a sea of change over the last 15 years. The current generation is the most food-aware generation that the country has seen. This trend is partly due to an increase in disposable income of the middle class and partly due to advancement in technology. As food shows began appearing on the television, people’s knowledge about food increased exponentially. “The internet has also been a boon for any budding chef. They are increasingly self-taught and know exactly what goes on in the world of food,” Vir said.

Middle-class matters
In a global context, whenever there is prosperity, the middle class grows. And a growing middle-class undeniably influences the food landscape. When the middle-class gets empowered, they tend to spend a sizable chunk of their income on food and restaurants. And eating out becomes an experience in itself, where the food and ambience play equally important roles. Restaurants know this all too well, which is why they ensure their guests get the full experience of dining out. The food industry benefits from this trend and attracts companies who are quite happy to get into the food business. Vir said, “The middle class of today is not the same middle class that existed ten years ago and at no stage in our history has food been a bigger business than it is today.”

The critic
A food critic is a vital cog in the food ecosystem. With social media so prevalent, anybody with a mobile phone can be a food critic. But that does not necessarily mean a death knell for the experienced food critic. There is always room for popular feedback and a place for informed feedback. He said, “People are intelligent enough to accept that there are different reactions. A good food critic can make or break a restaurant with a review.” A critic in the food space is no longer limited to one single media but dabbles on multiple platforms.

The cookbooks
Food documentation is integral to the landscape. Cookbooks are written to document new recipes and are valuable. They are also written to chronicle unfamiliar foods. Chefs write cookbooks to showcase a recipe that they have created or added a twist to existing recipes. “Cookbooks that are written by chefs, capture the dishes they have created and any advancements they have made in a particular cuisine. It is important to chronicle experiences and ingredients as they provide lasting value,” Vir concluded.

Compiling recipes in a cookbook is just one way of chronicling food. Find out some unusual ways in which food history has been documented, according to Dr Mohsina Mukadam.