India’s food is one of her most remarkable features: its countless tastes and styles reflect the nation’s history, enduring traditions, and diversity of people and place—it is also rapidly changing. Eating the Past, Tasting the Future: exploring India through her changing food ventures ‘off the plate’, across the subcontinent and into the contemporary foodscape to discover the myriad forces – economic, technological, cultural, social and global — transforming what, how and where Indians are producing, trading and eating their food. At a time when food and our relationship to it are topics of increasing interest and debate, this is a timely, and important, work.
In Eating the Present author Charmaine O’Brien blends history, travelogue, memoir and conversations with leading chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, producers and retailers alongside domestic cooks and consumers to tell a unique story of India ‘now’ through her changing food.
While India’s culinary zeitgeist has many unique aspects, it is also being shaped by global factors as much as local considerations. In this talk Charmaine will share her own story of how she came to develop an ardent interest in India’s foodways; her observations on the impact of global food trends on transforming India’s food; and her predictions on how the burgeoning food trade between Australia (her home country) and India might influence future changes in food habits and preferences.
The talk will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Dr Charmaine O’Brien is the author of several books about India’s food history, food culture and food ways including The Penguin Food Guide to India (Penguin India, 2013), which was the first comprehensive guide to Indian regional food when it was published. Her most recent book, Eating the Present, Tasting the Future: Exploring a Changing India Through her Food (Penguin Random House India, 2023) takes readers on a journey across the subcontinent to explore India’s contemporary foodscape and discover the broader economic, technical, social, and cultural that have transformed the country’s foodways over the past three decades. This work blends a ‘history of now’, memoir, travelogue, and interviews with many of India’s leading chefs, restauranters, food writers, producers and retailers, along with everyday cooks and consumers. Her other books on Indian food are Recipes from an Urban Village: a cookbook from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti (The Hope Project, 2003) and Flavours of Delhi: A food lover’s guide (Penguin India, 2003).
Charmaine holds a PhD in creative writing and also writes on Australian food history. Her most recent works on this subject include The Colonial Kitchen: Australia 1788-1901 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and The Devil at Work: the cook in Australian colonial literature in the The Routledge Companion to Food in Literature (Routledge, 2018). Her other areas of focus is advancing her skills in cooking and eating.