Meals and Memories in Bengali-American HouseholdsKrishnendu Ray
Interview with The Telegraph, Calcutta, 15 March 2005.
To most of us the food that we associate with homeour national and familial homesis an essential part of our cultural heritage. No matter how open we become to other cuisines, we regard home-cooking as an intrinsic part of who we are. In this book, Krishnendu Ray examines the changing food habits of Bengali immigrants to the United States as they deal with the tension between their nostalgia for home and their desire to escape from its confinements.
As Ray says, "This is a story about rice and water and the violations of geography by history." Focusing on mundane matters of immigrant life (for example, what to eat for breakfast in America), he connects food choices to issues of globalization and modernization. By showing how Bengali immigrants decide what defines their ethnic cuisine and differentiates it from American food, he reminds us that such boundaries are uncertain for all newcomers. By drawing on literary sources, family menus and recipes for traditional dishes, interviews with Bengali household members, and his own experience as an immigrant, Ray presents a vivid picture of immigrants grappling with the grave and immediate problem of defining themselves in their home away from home.
"The Migrant's Table will make a major contribution to our understanding of modernization, globalization, immigration, and neo-ethnicity. We can see how migrants are quintessentially modern in placing great hope in the future while also seeking to anchor their identity in nostalgia for the past. The discussion of how immigrants have adapted to the 4th of July and Thanksgiving is brilliant and eye-opening. Ray is one of the most astute, well-grounded commentators working in the field of food studies today. This is an extremely impressive book."
—Warren Belasco, Department of American Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
"Indeed, it is Ray's willingness to tread nonconformist waters that makes The Migrant's Table not only innovative and intellectually stimulating, but also a pleasure to read. His research makes several important contributions."