A Kerala entrepreneur’s jackfruit startup that’s fighting India’s diabetes ‘pandemic’

Come summer, Indians engage in a unique mango one-upmanship: Alponso or Langda; Ratnagiri or Devgarh Alphonso; Gujarati Kesar or Banarsi Chausa. If you ask me, this kind of mango tribalism is trite. The mango season is short. Eat whatever you can find.

But this is also the season of jackfruit, a fruit far more complex in flavour, and a veritable super food that Indians in its native land love to despise. Jackfruit of course has an exalted status in traditional Tamil literature, alongside banana and mango. Jackfruit can grow prolifically anywhere in peninsular India and the mid-to-lower Gangetic belt, pretty much.

I’ll share a couple of The Plate’s jackfruit stories here.

The first is about James Joseph, an ex-Microsoft executive who found a way to get healthy jackfruit into everyday Indian diet inspired by former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam’s one-line brief to him.

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West Africa’s bitter chocolate harvest is a sweet deal for farmers in south India

The small, dark godown abutting M Dharmambigai’s large home with a larger courtyard in Kottur, a village 15 km to the south of Pollachi town in Tamil Nadu, has never housed stock so precious.

The value of gunny bags of cocoa beans stacked unevenly, without a great deal of care, is currently more than Rs 12 lakh and almost guaranteed to go up to Rs 15 lakh soon.

The lottery of climate change is such that the misery of farmers in one country is an opportunity to make windfall gains for others in a different continent.

The price of cocoa beans, the primary raw material for chocolate, has more than tripled in the last year. In March 2024 alone, it rose from $7100 a ton to $10455. In fact, chocolate prices now trade higher than industrial metals such as copper.

Can Indian cocoa farmers like her take advantage of rising global cocoa prices?

Read the full story here 

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Food between cultures

Recently I read a piece on Indian cuisine from a “woke” perspective, Reclaiming Indian Food from the White Gaze: The same food I was teased for as a kid has become trendy and divorced from its cultural origins. Now, I’m using my cookbook to change the narrative. Obviously I disagree with the ideology interlaced throughout the piece, but the author is a pretty good writer, and a lot of the illustrations and experiences “ring true” to me. You could strip out a lot of the jargon like cultural appropriation and gaze, and the piece would be a fine read.

For example, the point that white women cooking “exotic” food is “trendy” and marketable in a way it isn’t when immigrants or nonwhite people do seems likely, and something I’d rather like explored more.

That being said, the implicit idea that people “own” culture and that the boundaries are sharp and strict seems to me wrong-headed ultimately. Synthesis is as old as human-kind…my family’s cuisine includes red chilis, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Just to give one example.

I’d be curious what Indian readers think, as the piece is obviously inflected by an Indian American lens.

Addendum: I’m from the far east of Bengal, but shrimp is my favorite food.

Maacher Jhol!

Think Indians Are Mostly Non-Vegetarian, Or Only ‘Upper Castes’ Are Otherwise? This Menu Smriti Will Change Your Views:

In fact, if we discount the smaller states (Northeast excluding Assam and Goa) and consider the rest, we are left with only three provinces across the country where the meat-eating percentage on a weekly basis is in excess of 80 per cent – West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.

It seems possible that the higher fraction of meat-eaters in UP vs. the other major northwestern states is probably largely the function of the higher fraction of Muslims.

Brown Pundits