Kodava Cuisine in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Indian Cuisine

If my blog has been a little quiet, it’s because I have been busy— directly or indirectly—working with food. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Indian Cuisine (Bloomsbury Academic, 2023), recently published in India, edited by Colleen Taylor Sen, author and editor of eight books, Sourish Bhattacharyya, food journalist, and Helen Saberi, author of a number of food books, has been described as “a definitive and indispensable guide to Indian cuisine…the authors have…incorporated the writings of eminent food writers, making this a comprehensive encyclopedia of Indian cuisine”.

I am very pleased to be part of this ambitious project, sharing my knowledge of Kodava cuisine, which is prominently featured in the book. The Coorg Table, the blog I have been writing since 2012, which invites interaction from readers across India and the globe and offers thoroughly researched written material on the food and culture of the Kodavas, as well as earlier articles published in various media have been part of my continuous documentation of Kodava food practices spanning decades.

As part of my ongoing attempts to highlight the rich and extraordinary culture of the Kodava
people in addition to podcasts and many audio as well as visual recordings with established
food personalities, I have presented papers at various academic and food history seminars to
bring Kodava cuisine into focus, and present it in depth to a wide audience. Being on
UpperCrust Magazine’s list of 50 Best Home Cooks in India, and Top 20 Food Writers, and
lecturing to the students of the prestigious OCLD, Delhi and demonstrating Kodava dishes,
training chefs and holding food festivals have all provided me with platforms to speak about and raise awareness of and interest in Kodava food. It is heartening to see some of the material from many years of work represented in this important publication. In addition, I enjoyed researching and writing contributions on the food of my now home state, Karnataka, as well as
other subjects.

It’s a matter of real pride for me that the very first entry is about K.T. Achaya, the renowned
Indian food historian who was a Kodava. Konganda Thammu Achaya —erroneously referred to
as Kollegal Thammu Achaya in the book—was the author of several scholarly publications on
food, including his ground-breaking Indian Food, A Historical Companion (OUP1992) which
remains a major reference book for any research related to Indian Food.

The Bloomsbury Handbook attempts to span the diversity and complexity of the cuisine of this
vast country in a documentation that covers a wide sweep of cuisines, ingredients, spices, food
practices and food personalities, filling in some gaps in the understanding of Indian cuisine. I
say ‘some’ because of course, the topic is enormous, and it would take several additional books
to cover it in any depth, which I hope we will see in the years to come. The book is also an
excellent insight into how much Indian food writing and documentation has evolved over the
last decade or so.

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava culture, history and food traditions.

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