All of us know there is a massive hole in Odia food writing. I am not talking about recipes, I am speaking of writings that deliberate on cuisines, compare cooking methods and practices in different parts of Odisha as well as giving a historical context to what we eat.
And, then there is the issue of exploring lesser known regions. The recipes currently floating are majorly coastal Odisha. Rarely something is seen from the north, west or south or regional variations in cooking. I have not a single piece on how Bengal in north and Andhra in south influences those region’s food. We need to move beyond recipes and start writing about the picture of Odia food.
I accept Writing about Odia food is tough business. There is not much secondary research to do. Most research papers are anthropological with cursory reference to food practices; most food writers write about individual dishes without touching on the culinary undercurrents; and one research paper I read ranked adivasis knowledge of nutrition in food at a lowly 23%.
The last generation was the last one that knew in any depth about pithas, rais and many other traditional foods that are vanishing or being cooked in modified methods today. It will also be great if writers and bloggers can start archiving old methods, dishes, try and recreate a few the old way etc. Because, remember, we may be the last generation that will see some of these preparations in practice. After us, it will be all archival research. So, we have the responsibility to document.
Why? Because the questions are framed wrong. The same research also complemented them on their knowledge about food as medicine. Anyway, the point is Odia cuisine is a deep coal mine with hundreds of channels. The first ones to attempt a primer of the cuisine have two options: dedicate a few years to first hand research or run the risk of being a collaborator and putting together pieces that may not always fit.
Under the circumstances, it is easier to map out the dishes of different regions than writing about them as cuisines and looking for culinary principles. But that is where the rewards are.