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Showing posts from October, 2011

The bread of life

The Portuguese had food on their mind from the moment that they arrived in India – after all it was the scent of spices that lured them across the oceans in the first place. Right alongside, the diet of the subcontinent changed permanently: potatoes were introduced ( India is now the world’s largest producer); chilies came in for the first time. Corn, cashews, guavas, pineapples, custard-apples, papayas, all came into the Indian diet through the Portuguese. But bread came to be the most famous import of the Europeans, who found no substitute in India ’s versions of unleavened chapattis and rotis, thin dosas and appams, soft breads made from ground rice and lentils. Wheat bread did not merely signify subsistence; it was required for the celebration of Mass. The early Portuguese presence in India was missionary-heavy, and they made bakeries and baking into a priority. It was missionaries who trained a large number of converts from the ‘Chardo’ caste (of Kshatriyas), from South