Spices of South Asia: a seven decades’ trail

On 11th November, Wolfson College Cambridge Fine Arts Committee and the Need for Nutrition Education/Innovation Programme (NNEdPro), via its inter-disciplinary Global Centre for Nutrition and Health in Cambridge, held an event – Spices of South Asia: a seven decades’ trail. This was part of the exhibition Representing Partition: India and Pakistan at Wolfson College Cambridge.

This programme as a whole was part of the University’s ‘India Unboxed’ series (which marked 70 years since India and Pakistan became independent sovereign nations) and ran alongside other exhibitions in University of Cambridge Museums and at the Centre of South Asian Studies.

Through this event we aimed to promote public understanding of the shared cultural heritage between India and Pakistan as well as South Asia and Britain, using the medium of food, nutrition and spices to explore themes ranging from the arts and humanities through to science, health and society.

The event started with opening remarks and discourse from Margaret Greeves (FRSA, Wolfson); Lord Richard Balfe (FRSS, NNEdPro); Lord Diljit Rana (MBE) and Professor Sadaf Farooqi (FMedSci)

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Lord Balfe, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of India, opened our Spices of South Asia event
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Lord Rana explained the importance of food in Indian culture, from offerings in temples to meals that build relationships with friends and family
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Prof. Farooqi gave the audience a reflection of how Pakistani and Indian food has become more familiar to the UK and how it has integrated into British cuisine over time.

Panel 1: A Spice Trail from the Khyber Pass to the Sindh Valley and beyond

  • Saeeda Ahmed MA – Spices of Pakistan and its frontiers
  • Dr Minha Rajput-Ray – The Spice Journey across India, Africa and the seven seas
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Saeeda Ahmed, Director of Education Partnerships UK, described the spices used in Peshawar and how the meals in the UK differ to the typical food found of Pakistan
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Dr Minha Rajput-Ray (NNEdPro Medical Director) took listeners on a journey across India through the spice route. Her talk described foods and spices of Northern India and the magic of the pickle, before moving to Southern India and a movement to steaming over frying

Panel 2: The Spice of Life: from food on our plates to nutrition and health

  • Nikitah Ray, Rama Rajput and Urszula Sobanda – South Asian foods and spices in Britain today
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Schoolgirl Nikitah Ray talks about her special detective mission – finding new spices in Tesco!
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Urszula Sobanda discusses her incredible art projects, which helped introduce primary school children to spices
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Nikitah Ray and Rama Rajput discuss the many uses and benefits of Garam Masala

Panel 3: Dr Glenys Jones with Professor Daniele Del Rio KC on  South Asian food, spices and human health

 

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Dr. Glenys Jones discusses how we can use spices instead of salt to add flavour to our food, to help reduce our salt intake and help lower our blood pressure

 

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NNEdPro Director Prof. Daniele Del Rio says that spices have potential health benefits but stronger research is needed

The event also included a viewing of displays including artwork and NNEdPro’s Teaching Kitchens Initiative and South Asian Performing Arts including poetry and dance by Divya Ram Kumar and Colleagues. The programme closed with a viewing of Main India-Pakistan Exhibition

The event was co-chaired by Cleo Roberts (Wolfson College Visiting Research Associate) and Professor Sumantra ‘Shumone’ Ray (Wolfson College Fellow)

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