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India's endangered rice turn into a plate of art

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

‘Edible Archives’ at the Kochi Muziris Biennale '18-19 is an infra-project that invites you to create archives in your memory of rice that may not see the future.

These are 15 unfamiliar sounding varieties of rice, with names like Ratna Chudi, Bahurupi, Radha Tilok, that have made their way to Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi. They are all part of the first ever food project at Kochi Biennale, the global contemporary arts festival. It's called Edible Archives.

The brain child of Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar, Edible Archives is curated along with 3 other women chefs, Prima Kurien, Kiranmayi Bhushi and Priya Bala. They have chosen varieties of rice that are now either in stages of extinction or grown sparingly by a few farmers, since the hybrid ones nudged them out in the '60s green revolution. The 4 chefs are cooking up and serving dishes with these almost extinct rice varieties, and documenting the process too.

Every day, The Edible Archives team chooses the 'rice-of-the-day' and then deploys rigorous culinary techniques along using locally-sourced fish, vegetables and meat. The focus is on clean flavours and fresh ingredients.

Edible Archives is about serving rice that is marginalised, not commercial, and therefore not in collective memory,” says Anumitra.

The Edible Archives team has been travelling to source indigenous varieties in all their diversity: of taste, texture and colour; of starchiness and nutritive value; of traditional knowledge and techniques; of cultural and religious importance; a diversity, in short, of possible ways of life.

By documenting these, and creating a space to work with them, they hope that all is not lost.

In keeping with the cause of sustainability, the 4 women chefs have boycotted the familiar long-grained basmati for its ‘elitist’ image and because its cultivation uses a lot of groundwater.

Edible Archives’ stall co-exists with existing natural structures and the spaces around it follow earthen motifs, rich with browns and burnt umbers. It’s a reminder that you’re eating food that’s only made of what you’re made of.

All the food we’ve ever eaten linger in our memories, a constantly changing edible archive we carry with us. The journey of this project spans the growing, sourcing and cooking. But it only comes to an ends with you, the ones eating the meal.


Cabral Yard , Fort Kochi

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

until 29 March 2019

The varieties of rice on offer -

Bahurupi from Orissa

Burma black, Dodda bair nelluKagisale and Ratna chudi from Karnataka 

Chini atopKala bhat, Tadha tilok and Tulai panji from West Bengal

Kattuyanam and seeraga samba/champa from Tamil Nadu

Thavalakannan from Kerala

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