Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape: Culinary Anthropology & Ethnography in India

British master chef and multiple Michelin Star-winner Gordon Ramsay recently filmed a special mini-series for Channel 4 in Great Britain, "Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape." In the three-episode series (which I'm in the midst of downloading via, he travels across India to experience first-hand its myriad of different cultures, culinary styles, and ingredients, engaging in what is essentially culinary anthropology, a fascinating ethnography of many different parts of the country through their cuisines. Some of what he encounters, say near the border with China, is unlike anything most associate with "Indian" cuisine. The program is HIGHLY recommended. As such uploads on YouTube are often taken down, I recommend watching it (or downloading its parts) now, before it's too late.

In the first episode, the first part of which is embedded below, Ramsay travels to Lucknow, a famous Shi'i (Isma'ili and Twelver) center of scholarship. On his train ride there, he earns his passage by working with the train's cooking staff. In Lucknow, he works with a famous Indian chef and one of his sons who come from a family of chefs who were historically the master chefs to the Nawabs, Twelver Shi'i notables who ruled the city. For more on them, see Prof. Juan Cole's first book, Roots of North Indian Shi'ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh 1722-1859, which is based on his dissertation.


Alexander said...

I watched the first few parts of the episode...I can't handle the aggressive Orientalism of those travel shows, but oh man does that food look good. Indian food is the only thing that can rival Iranian food, in my (obviously biased) opinion. From what I've heard, Iranian food used to resemble Indian food more closely (which is still evident when you look at Afghan food) before Iranian cuisine fell under heavy Turkic influence. Today many of the dishes Iran and India share (qormeh/korma, kufte/kofta, halim, kabab) have Turkic origins as well.

إبن الصقلي said...

While I agree that there is some of that in the series, I think that overall it isn't as bad as other similar travel shows (at least ones I've seen). In the second episode, he goes to a region with tribes with a cuisine very unlike what most of us think of as "Indian." It's very interesting.

Being raised in an Italian-American household, I must disagree with your ordering of cuisines. Italian is #1, followed by the cuisine of the place of my birth, Korea. ;-)

Hafiz said...

Thank you for this! I'm going to watch it tomorrow morning; it looks awesome!

Mishari Jayne said...

Thanks for this! Gordon is great (his language could use a bit less spice) but I love his style and had no idea this show was airing. Thanks again and have a great day!

Mishari Jayne