I love food. I love eating it, cooking it, preparing it, buying the ingredients. I love watching people cook. I love researching food culture and habit and folklore and history.
Yes, I love food. I love everything about food.
One of my all-time favourite dishes is made from ilish maach (a particular type of fish popular in Bengal), where the fish is cooked in mustard oil, with liberal use of mustard seed and chillies. When cooked properly, it looks something like this:
[My thanks to Indranil Sen and Jayashree Roy for the photo and for their wonderful recipe, which can be found here in Palki.]
I didn’t just come across this recipe randomly, I spent some time looking around the web for the right one: I was particularly interested in demonstrating a sense of the rich gravy that dominates my memory of the dish. And along the way I came across this article: The Mustard Oil Conspiracy. I’d read a good deal of Vandana Shiva’s work before, in particular those tracts and booklets related to the join between food and patents, but I hadn’t come across this one before. Unbelievable.
And you know something? More and more, I’m realising the truth of what people like Rishab Aiyer Ghosh and John Perry Barlow and Larry Lessig have been saying all along. Today’s battles about IPR aren’t about commerce, they’re about culture. There’s nothing more cultural than food.
Recent events suggest things are going from bad to worse now; the optimist in me thinks it’s “the darkest hour before the dawn”.
What next? I guess we should wait patiently for people to be arrested for selling kitchen equipment. On the basis that the equipment was used to cook food using “illegally” obtained recipes. Or something as ridiculous as that.
Yes, things will get ridiculous if we let them. Or sublime, as in the case of ilish maach. Our choice.