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Multi Cultural Diet & Influences - India

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The resources on different kinds of cuisine constitute a significant part of the contemporary publishing business. With the unavoidable influence of globalization the world has become more aware of different food preferences around the globe and has become eager to try them out. As a result, a multitude of cookbooks and other kinds of printed media have been made available to the average customer. The book titled International Cuisine by Jeremy MacVeigh can be partially assigned to the category of mass consumption literature; but at the same time there are distinctive features that make it interesting for a more careful and selective reader. The section on Indian cuisine guides the intended audience from general overview of Indian subcontinent to the minute details on food differences according to geographical regions, religious affiliations, and historical conditions.

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To begin with, the section opens up with a description of Indian subcontinent. The author reminds his readers about different countries that are part of this region and ethnicities that can be found there. For example, he states that almost every possible ethnic group is represented in this area to some extent. Also, the geographical peculiarities are mentioned, with vivid description of mountainous regions in the North, the dessert in the West, and great rivers in the East. The religious diversity of the region is discussed next with a logical connection to the historical context and the events that led up to the present situation. It is important to note that all these initial facts serve as a wonderful way to give the readers a taste of what will come in the following parts of the book.

The author is very effective in constantly relating geography, climate, history, and religion to the main topic of the whole book, namely the food. In this way the audience can see the underlying factors that have influenced and continue to influence the gastronomic preferences of these people. As opposed to some other resources in the same subject area, International Cuisine avoids the danger of reducing cuisine to a simple matter but rather effectively situates it in the larger context.

After the introductory couple of paragraphs, this particular section of the book submerges into the complex cuisine differences within Indian subcontinent. The writing style can be compared to a story-telling because the reader is truly invited to go though the different historical periods, starting from ancient times up to present, and see how the cuisine has evolved. For example, the audience finds out that from the outset people who inhabited Indian subcontinent grew such crops as rice, wheat, millet, chickpea, red lentil, sesame, mango, and mustard. They also had sheep and goats for the meat and dairy products. In this way the readers can see that initially Indian cuisine developed form a fairly limited range of food products that were not that different from other parts of the world.

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Later, with different peoples settling in the area and increased trade connection, as well as colonialism period, the food began to be diversified and enriched by different cultures and lifestyles. To give a small illustration, the author mentions that Aryans brought with them the tradition of growing legumes and lotus root, Arabic and Persian influences introduced spinach, almond, and rosewater, and American impact, achieved through European traders, manifested itself in the appearance of potatoes, cashew nuts, and kidney beans as well as chilies. Therefore, it is clear that Indian subcontinent has benefited a lot from being in the intersection of the international trade routes at that time and also from the different people settling in the area.

Together with these historical considerations, the readers are satisfied in one of the most interesting areas concerning Indian cuisine – meat issue and spices. One gets to envision more clearly how Hinduism promoted the spread of vegetarianism while Islam influenced the abstinence from pork and Christianity introduced the specific diets for periods of fast. Under Hinduism, for instance, food products are divided into three categories signifying the positive or negative effect that they have on human body and soul. The most desired category is sattvic foods that help to stay healthy and calm. Such products as milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, or legumes fall into this category. The middle category, rajasic foods, causes restlessness and excitement, and such food has to be consumed with moderation. Examples here include heavy spices, chocolate, tea, and coffee. Tamasic foods is the last category that is believed to harm both mind and body and has to be avoided altogether. Tobacco and alcohol, meats, and overuse of onions or garlic are part of such foods. As for spices, the important thing to understand from this book section is that there are differences in spice use and it would be wrong to suppose that Indian region is homogenous in preferring spicy food.

Differences from West to East and from North to South are discussed in the final part. Here, the reader can see the exceptions to the general rules. For example, some part of the population may indeed be vegetarian while the other allows some meat products. The coastal areas naturally have a lot of fish and some sea food in their diets. Also, some regions commonly have spicier food than the others. Major waterways of the Ganges River influence the fishing in that area and consequently promote fish consumption.

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The above discussion shows that the book International Cuisine and particularly the section on Indian food has a rather broad and comprehensive perspective, taking into account influential historical, geographical, and religious factors. The audience is likely to be satisfied with the easy and reader-friendly writing style as well as with appropriate illustrations and addressing the most interesting questions. The book would be suitable for a range of people interested in the overview of the Indian food and accurate representation of the existing situation.

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