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Learning to Eat in a Capital City

Constructing Public Eating Culture in Delhi

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Abstract:

The history of public eating in Delhi demonstrates the sociocultural and economic changes that have significantly reshaped residents' expectations of public spaces and practices. While Delhi's cuisine is widely considered India's haute cuisine, public eating in the capital was inhibited during Mughal and early imperial rule by widespread social conservatism, with food taboos and understandings of appropriate interaction limiting venues to food stalls patronized largely, if not entirely, by working class men. The imperial refashioning of urban life facilitated the city's first formal restaurants, which grew in popularity with the help of American and British soldiers, western tourists and wealthy Indians. Freestanding and hotel restaurants remained elite institutions, though their examples helped reconfigure wider understandings of appropriate social interaction. Economic and cultural liberalization during the last two decades has allowed for a flourishing contemporary restaurant culture in Delhi, with the restaurant emerging as a primary locus for citizens to display cosmopolitanism and explore the culinary Other.

Keywords: COMMENSALITY; DELHI; EATING; FOOD HISTORY; INDIA; PUBLIC EATING; RESTAURANTS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175174410X12549021368108

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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