Food Culture in Colonial Asia
A Taste of Empire
Routledge – 2011 – 196 pages
Presenting a social history of colonial food practices in India, Malaysia and Singapore, this book discusses the contribution that Asian domestic servants made towards the development of this cuisine between 1858 and 1963. Domestic cookbooks, household management manuals, memoirs, diaries and travelogues are used to investigate the culinary practices in the colonial household, as well as in clubs, hill stations, hotels and restaurants.
Challenging accepted ideas about colonial cuisine, the book argues that a distinctive cuisine emerged as a result of negotiation and collaboration between the expatriate British and local people, and included dishes such as curries, mulligatawny, kedgeree, country captain and pish pash. The cuisine evolved over time, with the indigenous servants preparing both local and European foods. The book highlights both the role and representation of domestic servants in the colonies. It is an important contribution for students and scholars of food history and colonial history, as well as Asian Studies.
"[T]he book yields a well nuanced portrait of one aspect, some would say a key aspect, of colonial life." - Ilsa Sharp; Options, February 13th 2012
"[An] impressive piece of scholarship… this is a remarkable book by any standard: it offers fresh insights on the social history of British colonialism and should be read by students, historians and anyone interested in the British imperial history." - Anne Palmer, University of Newcastle, Singapore; TMC Academic Journal, 2011, 6(1)
"Food Culture in Colonial Asia proposes new ways of looking at the colonial pasts of India, Singapore and Malaysia. Its conclusions challenge many widely-held assumptions about colonist-colonised relations and its primary sources provide an endearingly human balance to the book’s scholarly material. Particularly appreciated by this reviewer was the chapter devoted entirely to curry, which includes an analysis of the word’s etymology, the ‘appropriation’ of the dish by colonists, and the commercialisation of curry powder. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in personal narrative, colonial histories and, well, food." - Dr Sally Carlton, The University of Western Australia; Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies, Volume 18 (2012)
Introduction 1. What Empire Builders Ate 2. The Colonial Appropriation of Curry 3. Servants of Empire: the Role and Representation of Domestic Servants 4. Leisure and Segregation: Clubs, Hill Stations and Resthouses 5. Dirt and Disease 6. Conclusion
Cecilia Leong-Salobir is Honorary Research Fellow in the History Discipline (School of Humanities) at the University of Western Australia. Her research interests are food, world history through foodways and colonial empires in Asia.