India and Pakistan have fought four wars and threatened each other with nuclear weapons for decades. Like most neighbors, they have differences — primarily in religion — but they overlap in some areas, such as language, dress, and of course, food. The universal cuisines that unite these two countries are being celebrated by one woman who has made it her mission to serve what she calls “bordered menus.”
Ragini Kashyap, 30, hosts pop-up dinners worldwide to showcase the underlying similarities between cultures separated by conflict. “We essentially eat good food, tell a few stories, and exploring the conflict from a lens other than facts, figures, and news channels,” she explains. In August, a few days before India and Pakistan celebrated their 72nd Independence Day, I attended one of her dinners at a swanky apartment that had been set up with gleaming silverware to host 18 hungry people.
The cuisine was from Punjab, a province that in 1947 was divided between Pakistan and India. In the wake of that partition, Hindus fled to Indian Punjab, and Muslims moved to Pakistani Punjab. “We eat food based on the land around us. So we draw borders on the lands around us, and we otherize the people who live the closest to us even though they are most similar to us,” Kashyap remarks.
Over the last year, Kashyap has held these dinners in London, Vancouver, and Mumbai. Her cooking is all over the map. She’s done three menus showcasing India’s borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China. But she’s also presented food that emphasizes the conflicts between Israel and Palestine, the U.S. and Mexico, and the civil war in Sri Lanka. There are 30 other menus she has yet to unveil.
Between guides, Kashyap defined the origin of the dishes and busting stereotypes. For example, as we sampled our appetizers of corn mash cooked in mustard oil and served with corn flour flatbread, she explained that most people companion Punjabi meals with being very heavy on the cream and meat inside the location consume very definitely. The commonplace assumption that most effective Muslims eat meat and Hindus are vegetarian can be real inside the towns, she stated. Still, within the villages, corn and mustard are stapled crops that everyone eats.
Maps and photos from pre-partition India were surpassed around. There was also a quiz that examined our understanding of the vicinity. Without googling for solutions, teams needed to parent out things like which city turned into considered the place’s cultural capital (Patiala) and how lengthy Sir Radcliffe took to draw up the border between the international locations (five weeks).
When I visited my grandparents in New Delhi, we never spoke approximately hatred between Hindus and Muslims, Pakistan, and India. My family just stated their place of origin with nostalgia, remembering buddies and places that they had left in the back of. I’d wanted to peer if Kashyap’s message of “identical, identical, however distinct” — how the human beings on both facets of a border conflict are honestly more comparable than they understand — could fly.