Feasts and Fasts

Feasts and Fasts

Colleen Taylor Sen




Paperback with flaps



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(Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789385755347 | 352 pages | April 2016)


India has always been part of the global economy. For thousands of years, the subcontinent was the centre of a vast network of land and sea trade routes—conduits for plants, ingredients, dishes and cooking techniques to and from the rest of the world. Foreign visitors have long marvelled at India’s agricultural bounty, including its ancient indigenous plants, such as lentils, mangoes, turmeric and pepper, all of which have been central to the Indian diet for thousands of years.
Today, Indian food in its many incarnations has become a world cuisine. This reflects an increased awareness of the virtues of a traditional Indian diet, especially the centrality of fruits, vegetables and grains and the extensive use of spices, the benefits of which have been confirmed by modern science.
Yet what is it that makes Indian food so recognizably Indian, and how did it get that way? Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India is an exploration of Indian cuisine in the context of the country’s religious, moral, social and philosophical development. It addresses topics such as dietary prescriptions and proscriptions, the origins of vegetarianism, culinary borrowings and innovations, the use of spices and the inseparable links between diet, health and medicine. It also looks at special foods for festivals, street foods and the splendour of Mughal feasts. This lavishly illustrated book gives a mouth-watering tour of India’s regional cuisines, containing numerous recipes to interest and excite readers.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


'A fascinating book about the subcontinent’s culinary and gastronomic heritage—from the Indus Valley civilization to the modern day. It overturns many of our most commonly held beliefs about Indian food and, indeed, Indian history.'
—Vir Sanghvi

‘An irresistible addition to your kitchen shelf, the history inside is richer than any Indian dish you’ve ever tasted.’

‘Sen’s interdisciplinary history of the culture surrounding India’s food is a comprehensive addition to any library. Not only does the book examine India’s history and culinary developments from the prehistoric through present day eras, it also interweaves snippets of literary works and recipes that are now enjoyed worldwide. Sen follows various influences on modern Indian cuisine, including religion, climate, and colonialism, and concludes with a chapter on the assimilation of Indian influences in nations around the world, giving thorough insight into one of the world’s most diverse cuisines.’

‘An ambitious tome which explores India’s various dietary conventions and religions through the ages.’

‘A richly detailed volume, with colorful historic images, some poetry ("Ode to Ghee") and a few ancient recipes. It begins with the prehistoric era, moves on to religious influences, the arrival of Marco Polo in the 1292, the development of regional variations, the Partition of India in 1947 and the creation of tandoori chicken, a relative newcomer to the Indian table.’
Chicago Tribune

‘Although a rich variety of Indian foods has been enjoyed over the ages by countless generations in India and later the rest of the world, there have been few historical, cultural, and scholarly studies on the subject. This book amply fills that void…. The book offers readers an in-depth narrative at once interesting, informative, and insightful. Well researched with abundant notes and references, and interspersed with colorful pictures, this book will prove fascinating to Indian and non-Indian readers alike. Recommended.’

‘Sen’s volume is brilliant, concise, and well thought out. It would appeal to scholars, students, and food enthusiasts alike. It is a fantastic book to use as a reference, or even to retrieve classic Indian recipes from. The only warning to provide is to not read this book on an empty stomach. Sen’s book is a true delight!’
New Asia Books

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