An online archive lets you cook your way through India

Cookbooks are wonderful repositories of a culture’s foodways, along with recipes handed down from generation to generation via oral tradition or passed along through recipe cards. As groups of people move in response to political or cultural issues and as tastes change, community recipes that have not been codified in cookbooks can be lost. A trio of students at Flame University in Pune, India recognized this and started the Indian Community Cookbook Project, a digitized archive that contains recipes written by authors from all regions of India, including foods from marginalized groups and small sub-regions often overlooked by food writers.

Although the name of the project contains the word ‘cookbook’, not all the recipes come from printed books. “Many of India’s recipes live within oral cultures,” says Ananya Pujary, one of the project’s founders. “We wanted to address those. To document cultures at the risk of disappearing, on the brink of forgetting.” Pujary, along with Khushi Gupta and Muskaan Pal, created their project in 2019. The pandemic threw a wrench into the group’s plan to travel and interview people face-to-face, but they found creative ways to achieve a comprehensive archive, which is free to access.

One technique the team employed was scouring the internet for cooking videos people made during the pandemic, following up on those that looked interesting. They also collected recipe cards and community cookbooks from all over the country. In order to keep as much information as possible about each recipe, they included the author’s original handwriting and voice wherever possible. “We didn’t want to commodify or gentrify the tone of the cookbooks. It is an archive of cookbooks, but also personalized techniques, measurements, and sentiments that surround foods,” says Pujary. The team hopes to expand their section of “Timelines,” which map the evolution of cookbook cultures, and create other facets for the project, such as a “Food Memories” section for oral histories and stories.

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  • inflytur  on  May 7, 2021

    What a wonderful project. I love hearing about people preserving their own food cultures and sharing that knowledge with the world.

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