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Authors

Ariel Little

Department

English

Faculty Advisor

Leigh Matthews

Abstract

In her book, Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India (2006), Madhur Jaffrey, one of the most prominent Indian culinary authorities, illustrates how memory and the past are often best encapsulated by food. Jaffrey’s memoir is well timed, as food culture is a burgeoning field of academic study due to the acknowledgment that food is an indicator of culture, geography, and time period. Culture and food are inextricably intertwined and, as Jaffrey reveals, food culture can be the ideal place for the expression of identity. Jaffrey does acknowledge how much cultural, and especially religious, identity shapes one’s diet, yet she also exposes how cuisine is where her family expressed their cultural hybridity and how diet is inevitably altered to the individual’s palate. These factors enable food to become an acceptable field for experimentation for Jaffrey, ultimately allowing her to adopt a culinary cosmopolitanism and consequently a multicultural identity distinct from her communal one. However, Jaffrey does not abandon her Indian character, choosing to maintain her culture through embracing Indian cuisine once abroad. For Jaffrey, food’s dual nature, as both an important cultural signifier and an acceptable field for experimentation, renders cuisine the ideal method for enabling Jaffrey to develop a multicultural identity while still maintaining her heritage. This research will demonstrate the significance of food culture studies by exploring Jaffrey’s depiction of food as a flexible medium for expressing the various types of identity.

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