Written by Nandana Bhattacharjee
A true Bengali is one whose life seems incomplete without some deep fried ‘luchi’ and potato curry in the breakfast table. Bengalis just like many other communities of India are known for their food habits and of course for their immense good cooking.
Now, we are standing alongside with globalization, everything online and almost all types of restaurants near us. No more do we go to Darjeeling for authentic momos and to south India for dosa and uttapam.
Before talking about the so called Bengali middleclass food habit we should understand the class itself. This middle class has really gone through a lot of things. Earlier middle class families where those who had very little savings and at the end of the month there was an inevitable shortage of money. Situations have changed now, middle class have gone up the ladder and the definition of middle class has also shifted its epicenter.
Middle class is actually a very hegemonic class and has well drawn its boundaries to not let working class and people from other classes enter it. Food habit just the other daily things is going through a lot of change.
Earlier it was a delicacy for Bengalis to have food with lots of spices and oil too but how we are shifting towards a healthier food type where luchies have been replaced by cornflakes and prawn curry by grilled chicken breast.
I remember when I was very small Sunday afternoon meant good mutton curry, French fries (aloo bhaja) , dal and steaming hot rice. But now, the scenario has gone through immense change. Mutton is almost a forgotten story now in most of Bengali families.
Eating healthy is something that the world is focusing towards and middle class Bengalis has historically responded to each and every change. Looking at the lower strata of the society we can well say that they have not shifted that much in their food habit because apparently healthy food is costlier and the very rich section of the society is so less in number that what they about their food habit is unknown. Middle class just as the name suggests falls in between and have made its position well enough in this transition.
Pattern of food consumption well indicates the social class one belongs to. Researches have shown that mothers of the middle class families are more concerned with the nutritional and food value they give their children. For lower class it is primarily the cost and general family preference.
Pierre Bourdieu, had studied middle class very thoroughly and he suggested that it is actually the middle class who decides which food to be labeled as ‘bad’ and which one as ‘good’. People from other class follow these tags and form their food habit.
Something that can be well concluded is that food habit is not a subjective choice, there are actually some laid down pattern and one can do nothing but follow them. Middle class which has been a very influential class and also trend setters in certain areas have a huge impact on others food habit too.
Author Bio: Nandana Bhattacharjee is a student of Presidency University, Kolkata. She is in her final year of under graduation, with sociology major. In her first year she had done a summer internship with Hope Foundation, Kolkata. Being primarily interested in gender studies she is to work on ‘gender and body image’ for her upcoming dissertation.