articles by Jehan Nizar


Food Files: From Portuguese introduction to British cultivation, story of tomatoes in Indian cuisine is a complex one

With their unfamiliar attributes, tomatoes, it seemed, had an ability to stump right from their initial days of inception in the Mughal kitchens as is evident from early mentions in Indo-Persian cookbooks such as the Nusḵẖa-i Niʿmat Ḵẖān, where it is referred to as the wilāyatī baigan or foreign eggplant.


Food Files: How Portuguese maritime endeavours post-1498 resulted in a culinary sea change for India

With previously unknown produce — such as pineapples, guavas, cashew nuts, chillies, tomatoes and potatoes — from the “New World” making its way to the shores of the “Old World”, “host” cuisines found themselves adapting new techniques to incorporate foreign fruit into their existing diets


Food Files: How fruit preservation in India married Mughal influence with local produce, customs to create new traditions

Far from being a homogeneous inherited lexicon, the methods with which fruit in India is preserved today is a textured reflection of centuries of invasions, colonisation and trade and maritime routes that have married the lay of the land and pre-existing dietary predilections with absorbed techniques.


Forgotten Food: Close encounters with the Cissus quadrangularis, or pirandai

Commonly known as the adamant creeper, square stalked vine, veldt grape and devil’s backbone in English as well as by regional names such as the hadjod or “bone setter”, the Cissus quadrangularis is a resilient succulent vine that is as distinct in its appearance as it is in its wide-ranging ethno-medicinal properties.


Forgotten Food: The Decalepis hamiltonii represents India's bounty of plant wealth, and the challenges facing it

Roots such as those of the endangered Decalepis hamiltonii, known by regional names such as the mahali kizhangu and makali beru, have long been acknowledged by Ayurvedic and Siddha practitioners for their medicinal value.


Forgotten Food: The Eenthu Panna tree's seeds contain the story of a cuisine, culture and its custodians

In addition to being the star ingredient in heirloom dishes like the ‘eenthu pidi’ made by the Mappila Muslims, the seeds of the Cycas circinalis (popularly referred to as the eenthu panna) tree are a living testimony to the age-old reliance of indigenous communities on wild edibles and the unrecorded wealth of ethnobotanical information they possess.

Arts & Culture

Tamil Nadu’s folk artists strike new-found resonance amid COVID-19 — a reminder of the role they played in past epidemics

Marginalised and subaltern forms of musical expression, performing arts and literature have historically fulfilled a range of purposes in Tamil Nadu. Under the lockdown, the fate of their proponents remains uncertain


As COVID-19 fears, lockdown dull mango's sheen in Tamil Nadu, foodies recount fruit's indelible place in state's cuisine

Enthusiasts in Tamil Nadu find themselves adjusting to the new normal, as the joy of handpicking produce is lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and they settle instead for fond recollections of their favourite fruit and its varied uses in the state’s layered cuisine.


During a sombre Ramzan in Tamil Nadu, the nombu kanji tells a fascinating story of state's Muslim communities

This Ramzan, amid the coronavirus-related lockdown, Muslim communities across Tamil Nadu are embracing a return to modest and mindful one-pot meals that are a testimony to both the spirit of resilience and the state’s distinctive cultural fabric