The partition of 1947 has been one of the most significant events in the history of mankind. It led to unwilling migration of millions of people. In between what was lost were millions of recipes and cooking practises.
Food has a long history of being an agent of emotional connection between people. All the modern-day cuisines that we eat have cultural, political, emotional and geographical factors that made it what it is today. One of the most significant events in the history of our country has been the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The event had such deep consequences that citizens of both countries have made it a part of their identity forever.
During the partition, what was divided was not just the land but also things beyond human materialistic desires. Millions of people migrated from both ends in the wake of violence ignited because of the partition. People had to flee their ancestral homes for decades abruptly. Today after so many years of partition, we are left with nothing but stories of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers to share.
If you examine properly, there are a lot of similarities we have as Indians with the people of Pakistan. It's not just the way that we look and the uncanny similarity between Urdu and Hindi but also the food that we eat and the spices that we use. Both Indian and Pakistani cuisines are branches of the same tree. The culinary landscape of both the countries might have evolved after more than 80 years of independence but there are still hints of familiarity.
Recipes have been transferred from generation to generation but there has been a significant shift in the cooking methods and the use of ingredients in both countries. The division also somehow led to the loss of some of the most authentic cooking recipes that were followed in the Indian subcontinent for the longest time.
Due to the geographical division certain ingredients and vegetables only became available in one of the two countries. For example, India has agricultural land which is perfect for the growth of certain spices, vegetables and fruits. Pakistan on the other hand has fertile lands that grow specific grains well for example millet, chickpeas, and corn. The culinary practices rely a lot on the availability of ingredients. The dishes of both India and Pakistan are a fusion of practices from both cultures. Some ingredients and techniques are borrowed from each other and you will see multiple versions of the same dish because of this very reason.
Tandoor Ki Aach Se
Tandoori food is one of the biggest examples of cultural amalgamation pre-partition. The concept of Tandoor was introduced by the Mughals in the Indian subcontinent. Delhi became the centre of Mughalai cuisine and to this date, you can see its impact in the old Delhi region. The immigration of more people from the Central Asian countries introduced more flavours to the already existing Mughal cuisine in India. Dishes like biryani, shabdeg and Mutton Korma are some examples. Refugee Kundan Lal Gujral started Moti Mahal in Delhi just after partition, where Tandoori food and dishes like dal makhani and butter chicken were invented and popularised in India.
Delhi became the epicentre of food and cultural exchange and that is how the rest of the country got acquainted with the food practices of the people of Mughals. Other than the Mughals, Sindhis, who immigrated from Karachi to India, also played an important role in the introduction of the concept of snacks to the Indian culinary vocabulary. Dishes like Dal Pakwan and Sai Bhaji became popular in India. The concept of snacks was thus introduced and people started serving something light as an appetiser before the proper meal. Pre-partition the concept of snacks was only limited to eatables like bhel puri and golgappa.
Impact of Britishers
Britishers ruled the people of India and Pakistan for more than 200 years. It is obvious that European culture became popular in India and the people of our country also became aware of their cuisine and eating practices. European food, especially British food, is not as flavourful as Indian or Pakistani food. What became popular among the people of India and Pakistan were the British cutlets and scones. This led to the establishment of many coffee houses and cafes in both Delhi and Lahore. But eventually, the people on both ends have a stronger inclination towards bold flavours. So Tandoor and the typical north Indian cuisine remained the most popular among people. Post-partition, cafes like the United Coffee House and Kwality in Delhi were started by immigrants and are still serving people after many years. Initially, these cafes served European food dominantly, but the menus have evolved.
Image Credits- Unsplash
Indian gravy or the Indian curry as the Western population likes to call it has become very popular across the globe. From a third-person perspective, an Indian curry equates to either butter chicken or chicken tikka masala. But as Indians, we know how versatile the meaning of Indian gravy or curry is. For a single ingredient like chicken, you will find an endless number of curries from Kashmir to Kerala. As you move downwards, you will see a dynamic shift in the flavours and the way that it is cooked. The eastern part of India is a whole new world altogether.
It was the Mughals who introduced the concept of adding yoghurt to the gravy along with strong spices. After partition, the people of India also started making heavy tomato-based gravies and it became instantly popular. The use of onion and garlic is also credited to the Mughal invaders.
Video Credits- Street Food PK
The partition led to a solid rise in the regional identity of all the states in India. Pre-partition, there was only a little knowledge of the food of different states and cultures of India. Now, every state of India has a distinct identity and food practices of its own that are equally popular throughout the country. Climatic conditions and natural vegetation have also dominantly affected the food practices in India. Indian cuisine has gone through a major metamorphosis post-partition. The term Indian cuisine is just a single word to describe thousands of dishes that are cooked by people of different cultures and religious beliefs in the country.