Indian food or cuisine is an amalgamation of a culinary history going back to 5,000 years ago; the different varieties of food preparations, ingredients, herbs, spices, vegetables, fruits, cereals and others have greatly influenced other ancient civilizations around the world. It also reflects the lifestyle of the people which has been heavily influenced and shaped by cultural traditions and religious choices.
The diversity of cuisines and flavors found in the sub-continent today are linked to delicacies from the ancient Romans and Greeks in the west; besides the influences of Asian countries like China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand are also very prominent to this day. In the modern era, influences and foods from the Mughals, British, Portuguese, and Dutch were borrowed and adapted to local tastes and conditions.
For instance, the potato which is a staple food all over the country was a direct influence of the Portuguese as also breadfruit and chilies. It was chiefly because of Indian cuisine that international relations developed between Asia and Europe and led to what historians cite as the prime reason for Europe’s Age of Discovery. To sum up, factors such as colonialism, foreign invasions and trade relations played a vital role in the intermingling of foods, spices and lifestyles.
India’s geographical diversity like the vast coastline, mountain ranges and rivers throughout the length and breadth of the country and vast plains etc coupled with different soil types, climatic conditions, availability of local crops, different occupations and many other factors have given it the abundance and richness of foods and food patterns that no other country in the world has. In fact, the food patterns are still evolving with more and more cultural interactions through faster people to people interaction.
Indian cuisine has also been divided into North Indian and South Indian, with a vast mix of individual state cuisines and specialties making up the two categories.
Food choices and cuisines in India, particularly vegetarianism, are a part of Dharmic beliefs constituted by different concepts of conduct, duties, laws, rights, virtues and the right way of living. Historical incidents such as foreign invasions, trade relations and colonialism have also played a role in introducing certain foods to the country.
In the context of Indian food, it is interesting to note that over the last few decades, globalization has brought many international food chains and groups such as KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King etc., Indian cuisine is also enjoying huge success in overseas markets. This is possible because the domestic economy is strong and the world is seeing an appetite for Indian food; two factors which are spurring big names and new entrants to expand their businesses.
Indians are found in large pockets of population in Britain, the US, certain countries in Europe, the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia etc. Many branded food chains and family oriented groups from India have re-invented Indian cuisine to suit the tastes and palates of the locals there; some have survived well for generations while some have failed perhaps due to the faulty business operations that were followed such as franchise outlets and licensed retailer business.
But Indian food or cuisine is not a fad; it will survive and thrive well because it is all-encompassing and all-enduring.
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