Tasting India by Christine Manfield

  • Full Title : Tasting India: Heirloom Family Recipes
  • Autor: Christine Manfield
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
  • Publication Date: January 29, 2019
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1925791319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1925791310
  • Download File Format: epub


*Winner—International Cookbook of the Year, International Association of Culinary Professionals, New York
*Best Culinary Travel Book—IACP Awards, New York
*Best Illustrated Book—Australian Book Industry Awards

Journey through modern India with celebrated chef Christine Manfield and discover the food, spices, and culture of this diverse country with this beautifully illustrated cookbook.

“This is my story of India, a story gathered across many visits, connecting with people in various walks of life. The recipes I’ve collected along the way reflect the stories of countless mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sons of daughters, brothers, sisters and aunts, as told to me during my travels.”

Tasting India is a gastronomic odyssey through home kitchens, crowded alleyways, fine restaurants, and street carts to explore the masterful, complex, and vibrant tapestry of Indian cuisine. Along the way, this captivating country comes alive as Christine Manfield describes its food, landscape, culture, and traditions with her trademark passion, curiosity and expertise. This award-winning cookbook has been fully revised and includes three new chapters on Punjab, Gujarat and Hyderabad—plus Christine’s insider tips on where to sleep, eat, and shop throughout India.


About the Author

Christine Manfield is one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs—a curious cook, a perfectionist inspired by the culinary melting pot of global flavors, and a writer whose successful, award winning books include, A Personal Guide to India and Bhutan, Dessert Divas, Tasting India, Fire, Spice, Stir, Paramount Cooking and Paramount Desserts have spiced up the lives of keen cooks everywhere.



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rgued vehemently and at length in his writings for something very much like what I have argued for in my own writings—namely, a fundamental cosmic kinship with animals that confers on us deep ethical responsibility toward them.3 But the two of us come to diametrically opposed conclusions about the ethical implications of cosmic kinship. Lestel pushes for a “spiritual ecology” that in some ways recalls Aldo Leopold’s land ethic.4 The terms of this spiritual ecology entail an ethics of reciprocity between human beings and animals whose terms can be fulfilled only through active and conscious participation in the cycles of generation and destruction that define life. This means, Lestel argues, that human beings must eat meat if they are to fulfill their moral obligations.

In advancing his ethics of reciprocity between human beings and the rest of the living world, Lestel derives inspiration from holistic cosmologies such as that of the Algonquin of North America. He sees in these traditions a recognition and embrace of the fact that human life and death are inextricably bound up with the life and death of other earthly creatures. Peoples such as the Algonquin kill and eat animals, but they do so in a spirit of reverence and sincere thankfulness to the animals who sacrifice their lives so that humans may live a little longer. The same spirit of reverence characterizes Lestel’s ethic of reciprocity; thus, contemporary practices such as animal experimentation and factory farming, far from being ethically permissible, stand as testimonials to the utterly irreverent posture of contemporary human beings. Lestel’s call for ethical carnivorism is a far cry from current attitudes toward meat eating. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that more than fifty billion land animals worldwide are killed and consumed by human beings every year, and many of these animals are raised in horrifying conditions. Lestel is well aware of this fact, and he argues unremittingly for the cessation of invasive animal experimentation and factory farming. We must eat meat in order to acknowledge the infinite debt we owe to animals, but we must do so in a spirit of modesty and humility, and we must endeavor to minimize or avoid animal suffering as far as possible.

All this might sound like some sort of straightforward answer or formula for discharging our ethical responsibilities toward animals and the living in general, but in fact it ultimately leaves us with an unanswered question. That Lestel himself is aware of this is hinted at in his choice of epigram for the book, Kierkegaard’s remark about the importance of irony in a life well led—not to mention the importance of doubt in philosophical reflection.5 Does Lestel actually believe that meat eating is an ethical imperative? He offers his reflection on the ethics of meat eating as a provocation to those of us writing about animal rights to step back and raise anew the question of the animal and its many sub-questions. As he notes in his postface to the book, what is most needed sometimes in exigent circumstances is the exploration of possibilities that seem the most counterintuitive. And the circumstances of animals today are nothing if not exigent.

A final word about this book concerns my reasons for having undertaken the task of translating it. Given the lengths to which I have gone in my own work to argue for veganism as a strict ethical obligation, the reader must be wondering what would have motivated me to translate a book whose central thesis is so at odds with my own thinking. The reason is simple: Lestel is one of the most trenchant and thought-provoking thinkers writing about animals today, and English-speaking readers who are genuinely concerned about the moral status of animals need to take his ideas into consideration. The measure of the importance of a text or an idea is not whether in some objective sense it is “correct” or whether it corroborates the conclusion at which I am invested in arriving, but rather whether reflection on it helps us to move closer to the truth. So much of what passes for intellectual discourse today exhibits not an openness to opposing ideas but rather a determination to silence ideas that go against the grain. The best way to test one’s own convictions is to open oneself completely to the challenge posed by one’s most strenuous critics or opponents—to confront doubt rather than to seek to extinguish it and to attempt to dwell in the space of irony. If what we are interested in is the truth rather than winning arguments, we must lend a sympathetic ear to voices that challenge and unsettle us. For me, Dominique Lestel’s is one such voice. And it is very much worth listening to.6

A Sort of Apéritif

There was a time when unbridled sexuality raised the ire of right-thinking people who had a strong desire to lead others onto “the right road.” The strange passion for hygiene on the part of those who wish to exult in a surfeit of morality has always sought expression in the metaphors of the Michelin Guide. Different times, different morals. Today, those who have become vegetarians for ethical reasons harass carnivores in the same way that militant members of temperance leagues once pursued women of easy virtue.

Indeed, contemporary morality is adding a new prohibition to its long list: for some people, eating meat is not far from committing a crime. Opponents of this practice maintain that it is possible and even necessary to proscribe the regime of meat entirely, just as one is forbidden to kill his neighbor. Thus, the choice to be vegetarian is viewed not as a personal choice but rather as a categorical imperative, in the Kantian sense of the term, that is to be followed unconditionally. Whoever makes a different choice necessarily descends into evil. Consequently and entirely logically, the ethical vegetarian wants to obligate others to rally to his position: by means of persuasion in the first instance, by making those who continue to eat meat feel guilty, and subsequently by means of the law and coercion, if need be.

For the ethical vegetarian is a moral fundamentalist ready for anything. Am I exaggerating? Here is an example of what the dubious reader can get between her teeth if she takes the trouble to consult the literature ad hoc. Estiva Reus and Antoine Comiti wrote in the Cahiers antispécistes (Antispeciesist journal) in February 2008: “The thesis defended in this article is that we must henceforth work explicitly toward the legal prohibition of the production and consumption of animal flesh. This is both a necessary measure and one that can be achieved without waiting for a revolution in people’s sensibilities or in the organization of our societies.”1 The forecasted utopia has the colors of vegetables and the consistency of fruits. Abstaining from eating animals is supposed to lead to ultimate redemption: bring an end to suffering, become kind, save the planet, and finally nourish all the destitute inhabitants of creation. The intentions are good, but, as they say, that’s what the road to hell is paved with.

My previous book, L’animal est l’avenir de l’homme (The animal is the future of the human), provided intellectual tools to defenders of animals, but these tools were often ridiculed. Although the present essay has a similar spirit, its radical critique of ethical vegetarianism may cause surprise. Indeed, we have a tendency to believe that loving animals and not wanting to eat them are two inseparable attitudes. But such an inner compatibility is far from obvious. However legitimate and virulent the vegetarian posture may be, it remains surprisingly poorly conceptualized and leads to some paradoxes that few if any vegetarians are prepared to accept.

Thus, in the following pages I defend a thesis that is somewhat complicated and may be shocking at first glance. The ethical vegetarian’s position is tenable only if it is radical, but its very radicality is completely unacceptable for the majority of vegetarians. For this position is antianimal. Here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it revives the great frontier traced between human and animal by putting it into up-to-date terms, even though everything today shows any such frontier to be insubstantial. Nonetheless, the majority of vegetarians I know sincerely love animals. Such a contradiction poses a problem.

In this essay, my reflections are directed exclusively at ethical vegetarians. Thus, I refer to those who believe that it is evil to eat meat particularly on the grounds that such consumption is based on murder, suffering, and egoism. The ethical vegetarian’s position appears excessive to many people, and it certainly is excessive. It remains to know why. Those who are vegetarians as a matter of taste or for sanitary reasons interest me no more than someone who thinks he or she will become more intelligent by eating chocolate or more beautiful by bathing in the ocean: to each his or her convictions!

Even if I do not share their beliefs, ethical vegetarians appear to me to be more worthy of interest; in a word, I sense in them a certain perversity that excites my predatory instinct.2 Thus, it is to them and to them alone that I make reference here when I speak of the vegetarian.

One can criticize the vegetarian position with very strong arguments that vegetarians must take into account in order to remain credible. At the same time, vegetarians greatly underestimate what it means to be a carnivore. In fact, they never so much as pose the question. In particular, I suggest that the vegetarian’s love of animals—a love that the carnivore supposedly lacks—could redound to his disadvantage. The vegetarian is accustomed to believing that his struggle is sufficiently just that he need not think about it but only spread the word. He sees himself entirely in terms of a force relationship with the carnivore, when in fact there is also a genuine intellectual controversy. And this controversy, contrary to what the majority of militant vegetarians believe, is not without value. Properly explored, it can only strengthen considerably what they have to say and help them to understand better what they want to say.

Many people consider the vegetarian to be good, the carnivore to be a brute, and the defender of the carnivore to be a villain. This is not simply a basic summary of the prevailing attitude; more than anything else it is false.3 The arguments of those who would like to consume only vegetables, fruits, and cereals for ethical reasons are often highly questionable. At the same time, the carnivore is sometimes closer to animals than a vegetarian can ever be because she completely accepts (i.e., accepts metabolically) her animal nature rather than becoming disgusted with it. Notwithstanding my infinite respect for animals and the importance that I accord them, I challenge the idea that killing a nonhuman animal can be classified as murder. Terminological confusion is always a first step toward barbarism, and the recognition of this fact was one of the British writer George Orwell’s most brilliant insights. It is of more than passing interest that he would have applied this idea in precise terms to relations among animals. Thus, it is important to reverse the ethical vegetarian’s demand by showing that in fact it is eating meat that is an ethical duty. We call this the carnivorous imperative.

Eating meat can be considered an ethical duty for the Westerner inasmuch as it is an action that reinscribes the Westerner into his or her animality. The vegetarian who is completely opposed to the consumption of flesh, on the contrary, wants to abolish the human and animality in the name of an extremely idealized representation of the animal. This thesis seems extreme in the contemporary context of environmental concern. But since Greek antiquity the Westerner has been plagued by the temptation to declare human exceptionalism. Given our defective memory, the recollection of the animality of human beings is in part metabolic. To accept eating meat is to acknowledge that there are no “free lunches” in this lowly world. That being alive consists in receiving and giving joy and suffering. That being alive means being harmed by other living beings and harming them in return. To believe that one can live and occupy a position of innocence is pure fantasy. In contrast, eating meat should be seen as a way of reaffirming one’s animality in terms of what constitutes us fundamentally as animals. The human being is in fact an omnivore who eats meat. This diet is not simply nutritional; it is also metaphysical, spiritual, and ethical.

At the same time, the carnivore can limit his consumption of meat. It is also possible to assert a closer proximity to the animal by seeking to merge with it rather than by limiting one’s ambition to the desire to live in peace with animals.

Before entering into the heart of the matter, I would like to point out that paradoxically I feel much closer to the majority of vegetarians I know than to the majority of carnivores with whom I have become acquainted. Thus, this essay is certainly not a book against vegetarians but rather against the most fundamentalist of them. It has never been a trivial matter for me to eat meat; instead I fully acknowledge its significance. Along with the majority of vegetarians, I think that what we eat is constitutive of what we are. But our conclusions from this common conviction differ considerably. I eat meat, and I want to continue to do so for reasons that are very close to the reasons why vegetarians do not want to eat it; there is almost an exact symmetry here.

In our time, the defender of animals and the vegetarian are assumed to walk hand in hand. Defending animals and eating them are two attitudes customarily seen as contradictory. The situation is more complex than that. In particular, there is an entire intellectual tradition of carnivores that has consistently and sincerely defended animals and nature. Take, for example, Aldo Leopold, one of the fathers of American environmentalism, or Paul Shepard, one of the principal theorists of the necessary relations between human beings and other animals. It is in this intellectual space, still little known in France, that I situate the present book.

A vegetarian is a human being who prefers to eat only plants (vegetables and fruits), even though she possesses metabolically, physically, and financially the capacity to eat meat. Metabolically, she can digest meat, provided that it is available. Someone who does not eat meat because it would make her sick is not really considered a vegetarian. By the same token, an inhabitant of a large Western city who does not have enough money to eat meat cannot be considered a vegetarian.1 A vegetarian is one who makes a positive choice (to eat only plants, fruits, and vegetables—and of course mushrooms) or a negative one (not to eat meat) among other possible choices.

In this chapter, I first attempt to characterize the vegetarian position and then subject it to critique from the carnivorous point of view. The vegetarian will not necessarily agree with my way of characterizing his position, but we need not always characterize the vegetarian from the point of view of a vegetarian.

Who Are Vegetarians?

At the risk of being shocking, I would say that the term preference used earlier needs to be taken at face value. A preference is something I choose even though other possibilities are open to me. There can be more than one reason for the choice I make. The reasons offered by vegetarians in order to adopt a dietary regime without meat are sometimes mutually incompatible. Thus, many vegetarians base their choice on dietary reasons: they believe (whether they are right or wrong is not at issue here) that it is better for one’s health not to eat meat. Other vegetarians adopt this practice for aesthetic reasons (they simply do not like the taste of meat) or psychological ones (they have had a traumatic experience that prevents them from returning to meat as a source of nutrition). Finally, an increasing number of vegetarians abstain from eating meat for ethical reasons. They believe that such conduct is immoral or has consequences that are regrettable, indeed unacceptable, in the short to long run. In 1989, Paul Amato and Sonia Partridge reported that around nine million people in the United States were vegetarians, which was about 4 percent of the population. Sixty-seven percent of them were vegetarians on grounds of protest against the animal suffering caused by meat consumption; 5 percent cited problems of world hunger, and 38 percent cited a desire to promote personal health.2

The following pages are devoted exclusively to “ethical vegetarians,” those in the third category just outlined. The ethical vegetarian refuses to eat meat because it is necessary to subject a sentient being to suffering and death in order to eat it. The ethical vegetarian often appeals to a right possessed by the animal, a right that started to be conceptualized in the 1970s, although the foundational text that is constantly invoked in this connection is a text by Jeremy Bentham that dates from 1789. Defenders of animal rights generally adopt (although not always) a pointedly Anglo-Saxon utilitarian perspective according to which animals have interests. As sentient and intelligent beings, animals have in particular the right not to be killed in order to be eaten. There is another argument that is more empirical and cognitive. Animals indisputably possess an intelligence that is incompatible with being treated as simple means or as things. Given their cognitive and emotional capacities, they have the right not to be eaten by human beings for the same reasons that a human being has the right not to be eaten by another human. The most extreme militants advocate an even more radical position according to which all animal products, such as eggs and milk, not to mention leather and fur, must be proscribed. These individuals are the vegans. Finally, a group that is small yet extremely active in Anglo-Saxon countries links feminism and vegetarian practices. Without a doubt, it is Carol J. Adams who has done the most work to establish this position in a famous book that has been widely commented on: The Sexual Politics of Meat.3 She argues in particular that meat constitutes an important figure of masculine oppression; thus, the animal to be eaten is reduced to steak for the same reasons that and according to similar ideological procedures as the woman as object is reduced to a man’s sexual desire.

A very quick history of vegetarian practices is imperative. It is not without value to know how vegetarians arrived at their convictions. Nor is it a trivial matter to demonstrate that the vegetarian position, far from being monolithic, has a complexity greater than the majority of vegetarians believe. There are few histories of vegetarian movements, and some of them are more interesting than others. The one that I consider the best and that has given me the greatest inspiration for the pages that follow is the one published by Colin Spencer in 1993.1

Pythagoras and the Rejection of Cannibalism

If Pythagoras is frequently cited as a foundational figure by vegetarians possessing some erudition, this lineage is problematic. Egypt does have its vegetarians, and Zoroaster had already advocated abstention from meat. To justify his restrictive diet, Pythagoras offers two arguments. The first appeals to the idea of an active vegetarian diet. A human being’s nutrition should be vegetarian because eating plants is most worthy. For Pythagoras, who in Babylon was initiated into practices including the consumption of psychoactive drugs from plants originating from Persia, vegetarian food with aromatic spic


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