The Culinary Arts curation by The Locavore at Serendipity Arts Festival, 2023, encouraged visitors to examine their relationship with various aspects of food. Through the medium of art and learning, we aimed to expand our collective understanding of what and how we eat, and what this says about us.
Curating for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2023 was an exciting opportunity for The Locavore to consider how to meaningfully communicate ideas that matter to us. And the most joyous part? To be able to watch people, across ages, engage and respond to it after months and months of planning. Slipping into the shoes of the curators nudged us to think of food in familiar and new ways: as an urge and longing, as a way to remember, as a means to pleasure and comfort, and as resistance even.
Recognising that the experience of eating can not be seen in isolation, we invited people to look beyond what is easily seen, and use food as a lens to make sense of the world around us. Beneath our ever-changing relationship with food are so many other profound and complex ideas: of memory and identity, culinary wisdom and taste, the past and future of farming, the vast amounts of labour involved in getting food to our plates.
In the work we do everyday, we are astonished by the pockets of incredible work that happen in the food space across India. And increasingly, we see the power in facilitating, in connecting these rather brilliant dots. In our role as culinary curators as well, this is what we have attempted to do. To bring together powerful work from across India that has deepened our understanding of food, and the people responsible for it.
Here was our chance to bring food and art together to pique curiosity, to probe and to play, to inform, and act collectively for a better, more delicious future.
As culinary curators for The Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, our vision included:
- Designing ways for people to examine their own relationships with food, and expand our collective understanding of food.
- Celebrating India’s rich and diverse culinary histories and heritage.
- Encouraging people to be more responsible in their food choices, and more aware of where their food comes from, and who grows it.
- Cultivate a sense of connection in a world that is increasingly fragmented.
But at the heart of our approach remained The Locavore’s mission—doing good through food. As always, this led us to reflect on what it means to do good, and how we can create enduring impact. This guided our programming, which included interactive workshops, artistic installations, food stalls, and talks by experts in the food space.
For those of you who missed it, here’s a peek into how we approached our curation, and what the experience was like!
The Grove at Old GMC Complex
The Grove was an open space where participants engaged in activities, workshops, and immersive installations centred around the theme ‘
Don’t Play with Your Food’. Designed for collaborative participation, it allowed attendees time to think, co-create, and explore their relationship with food through joy and play.
At the centre of The Grove was ‘The Doing Good Through Food Challenge’—an interactive installation that led to playful exploration of the theme ‘Doing Good Through Food.’ Through this multi-sensory experience, people were encouraged to contemplate their relationship with food. How many desi vegetables and fruits find their way into your plate through the year? Does your plate discriminate? What are evocative food-related words in your mother tongue? How green is your garbage?
The challenge consisted of short, self-guided interactions at 8 stations, allowing participants to engage independently. Think of it as a self-guided quiz in which the goal was to debunk food-related myths, stimulate meaningful conversations, and inspire participants to commit to positive changes in their food-related choices. (For instance, did you know that a staggering 6,87,60,163 tonnes of food are wasted in Indian households each year, translating to roughly 50 kgs per person!)
With each topic was provided practical solutions and proactive steps that individuals could adopt in their daily lives. Additionally, a QR code offered them the chance to delve deeper into the subject through insightful articles and resources. At the end of the challenge, participants were encouraged to visit The Locavore Wall, and make a personal pledge related to their food choice
Know Your Desi Vegetables (KYDV) Kitchen
The KYDV (Know Your Desi Vegetables) Kitchen was an inviting and dynamic space dedicated to spotlight diverse Indian produce. So often, we take the food that grows in our own backyards for granted, and are unaware of even its basic characteristics. The idea for the KYDV Kitchen emerged from the desire to spotlight the remarkable range of native produce that is grown across India, and cultivate an appreciation for this diversity.
At the KYDV stall, visitors learned about a variety of local and seasonal vegetables, and got to taste dishes cooked with them. Open to people across ages, the stall’s aim was also to promote knowledge of traditional cooking practices, and offer insights on inventive techniques.
Each day, a different desi vegetable took center stage, and this was changed every few hours. Some of the desi vegetables celebrated were drumstick, bilimbi, colocasia (taro) root, banana flower, elephant foot yam, mustard leaves, and karande (air potatoes). Festival-goers enjoyed this constant change, and seeing how each produce could be cooked in so many different ways. They also observed the vegetable in its raw form, experiencing the various textures, colours, and aromas.
Stationed at the KYDV stall, The Locavore’s culinary intern, Fardeen Imdad Borah, was struck by how eager and interested people were in learning about each day’s vegetable. “Lots of people were very curious about karande (air potatoes). Maybe because it looks unique, and grows on aerial vines unlike other tubers. With bilimbi too, so many people had it growing in their backyards, but apart from eating it raw, they didn’t know how to cook it. I think our recipes gave them ideas.” For many visitors, they got to taste something new that they hadn’t had before.
The KYDV Kitchen was rarely empty, with some enthusiastic visitors swinging by twice a day, or even thrice, to get a taste of what’s cooking. In our kitchen, behind the scenes were eight cooks, busy peeling, grating, slicing, stirring so that we could give festival-goers a glimpse of all the possibilities of cooking with fresh local produce. What was heartening for us was to see how patient and respectful people were, how keen they were to learn about each vegetable being highlighted, and best of all, that it inspired them to cook more!
Paint with Food
Rooted in the idea of play and imagination, Paint With Food was an art-based activity for people to express their creativity, and depict food in interesting and unusual ways. Participants, especially children, were delighted to use a range of artistic supplies, from water colour and fabric paints to food pigments and dry waste. The aim of Paint With Food was for people to engage with food more closely and creatively, through art.
Some of the prompts given as part of the activity were to create a personified character sketch of a desi fruit or vegetable, and to think from its point of view. In doing so, participants were thinking more consciously about its journey, unique features, and its life cycle.
Oishika Roy, an assistant editor at The Locavore, was in charge of Paint with Food. When children refused to give us their paintings at the end of the activity—only so they could take it home—it made Oishika happy. After all, this had meant that they were proud of it. She shared, “There was a girl who was very shy at the start. But eventually, she came back to paint with food four out of nine days. She even brought her friends with her!”
The Locavore Shuffle
At a time when most of us are seeking real and honest connection, perhaps it should come as no surprise that The Locavore Shuffle is consistently a crowd puller. Built around the idea of facilitating meaningful conversation around food, the project invites participants to share their experiences and views with strangers.
Picture this: you are sitting across from a stranger and chatting based on a prompt from a cue card (for instance: what is the earliest memory of food that has stayed with you?). After seven minutes, you move places, and begin a new conversation with a different person. The Locavore Shuffle works in such a way that participants are engaged in one-on-one conversations, based on cue cards that explore topics such as kitchens, memory, identity, local markets, sustainability, food systems, and so on.
The Locavore Shuffle is more than just a conversation-starter; it’s a platform for cultural exchange, personal growth, and community-building. While there is room for spontaneity and discovery, The Shuffle demands tight planning and execution. By the end of it, as a participant, you would have engaged on a personal level with at least six to seven people. At the festival in Goa, we observed several people making plans to meet after, or go see an art exhibit together. As an organisation that cares deeply about building communities, this is what a win looks like for us.
Zinedabaad Collective’s Potluck: The Cui-Zine Library
It was a real delight for The Locavore to partner with Zinedabaad Collective to curate ‘Potluck: The Cui-Zine Library’—a collection of non-commercial, self-published booklets or zines, specifically focusing on food.
The project aimed to celebrate the diversity and richness of food narratives, bridging the gap between culinary arts and personal storytelling. This food-centric zine library was an amalgamation of contributions from various sources, including online workshop participants, community-based workshop attendees, and open submissions.
Zinedabaad Collective facilitated eight workshops during the festival alone, and worked with around 240 participants. Some of the workshops included Making Zine, Making Friends, Where Did It Come From, Where Did It Go? (exploring the unseen aspects of our food journey), and Secret Supper Club (on the history of sharing secrets).
Zinedabaad Collective was co-founded by Riya Behl and Devashree Somani, and we were curious to hear of their experiences facilitating zine workshops for the ‘Potluck: The Cui-Zine Library’. Devashree said, “As a facilitator, I was excited by the many different threads we were able to pull on to diversify understandings of food through differently themed workshops before and during the festival.” The zine workshops explored a range of themes, from local markets and food systems, to notions of nourishment and desire.
Riya said, “I liked that our library had contributors and visitors from diverse backgrounds. 8-year-olds, 90-year-olds, and a whole spectrum of folks in between made zines, sent them to us, and built this eclectic, evolving library with us.” On the last day of the festival, there were about 350 zines in the library.
A Longing For Home Food Booth
Have you ever found yourself away from home, calling someone in your family while recreating a family recipe? Especially during the recent covid-19 pandemic, lost and alone, so many of us turned to loved ones for advice on cooking. After all, it is also during difficult times that we most need the comfort of food. In today’s fast-paced world, the longing for home-cooked food is laced with nostalgia, and a deep yearning for honest connection.
The Locavore’s ‘A Longing for Home Food Booth’ was an ode to this universal emotion. Visitors stepped into a vintage-style booth where they could listen in on conversations about food memories, recipes, and culinary histories. An immersive installation, the booth celebrated the emotional resonance of family recipes, reminding visitors of their own culinary heritage, and cravings. Within these four listening chambers were conversations between fathers and daughters, cousins, grandparents and grandchildren, nieces and aunts—all centred around food.
We’ve now made these audio recordings available to you! Listen here, for recipes and food memories from Kolkata, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kayalpatnam, and more.
Pappa nu Ghosh: Cousins Lamiya Amiruddin and Adil discuss their late grandfather’s roast meat dish. Growing up in a Bohri household, they believe that their passion for cooking can be traced back to their grandfather’s experiments in the kitchen.
Paya Soup: Auroni and his father Aniruddha Mookerjee reflect on childhood memories, visits to the local butcher and learning about different cuts of meat, and their family’s recipe for paya soup.
Atte ke Halwa: Bhanu Roy, a seasoned cook, gives instructions to food writer Tansha Vohra on how to prepare Atte ke Halwa. A cook in Tansha’s home in Bangalore, he has mastered the family’s culinary heritage over 22 years.
The Food Lab
Bringing together experts and planning culinary workshops for The Food Lab—a recurring and much-anticipated feature of the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF)—has been a source of great joy and inspiration for The Locavore. While the workshops offered practical cooking skills, they also delved into the cultural, historical, environmental, and ethical aspects of food. Participants got to meet some of the most original and bold voices in the food industry, and also experiment with diverse flavours, textures, and aromas.
Cheese maker Aditya Raghavan conducted three workshops—Ghee and Our Connection With Our Ancestors, Paneer and the Origin of Cheese in India, and The Dairy Traditions from Colonization and Migration.
Ghee and Our Connection With Our Ancestors by Chef Aditya Raghavan
This workshop showcased the traditional method of churning butter from dahi (known as the bilona method) and talked about the historical significance of fermentation as a form of preservation and natural flavour development in traditional Indian ghee. It also touched upon practices tied to our pastoral ancestors, the pastoral Kashmiri cheese kalari, and the process of ghee-making.
Paneer and the Origin of Cheese in India by Chef Aditya Raghavan
Historians debate the origins of paneer. Did the Portuguese bring paneer to India? Chef Aditya Raghavan delved into ancient texts to uncover a possible explanation of how paneer emerged as a product of mixing milk with yogurt. In the workshop, fresh chhurpi—a Himalayan soft and creamy cheese born out of the heat treatment of buttermilk and dahi—took the spotlight. Those who attended the session had the opportunity to taste some of the finest and freshest paneer.
The Dairy Traditions from Colonization and Migration by Chef Aditya Raghavan
There are two significant colonization episodes that have shaped Indian dairy: the Portuguese brought Chenna to West Bengal and the Parsis brought fresh cheese making techniques to western India. The workshop introduced guests to the traditional cheese making practices of Central Asia and Europe, explored Bandel cheese, and demonstrated how to make fresh milk jelly coagulated by rennet. Participants also learned to prepare fresh Chenna.
Reimagining Coastal Food by Chef Abhishek Deshmane
The workshop was centered around Red Snapper Ceviche and Sasam Salad from Slow Tide, a Goan restaurant. Aligning with Slow Tide’s ethos, inspired by Anjuna’s 60s cultural blend, these dishes exemplified blending local origins with innovative techniques. Divided into segments, the session included a live demonstration of both dishes, and a tasting session.
Guided Tea Tasting by Aditya Shah
Jokai Fearless Tea’s Aditya Shah—a tea-taster, planter and entrepreneur—conducted this traditional tea tasting class on how to discern good quality tea, what a dry leaf tells you, how to brew different kinds of tea, and read the nuances of flavours in tea. Jokai Fearless Tea is one of The Locavore’s producer partners.
Khao Suno by Usha Chhabra
Storyller Usha Chhabra engaged children and their parents with stories of food, and food cultures across territories while using props and puppetry.
Cultivating Sustainability: A Permaculture Gardening Workshop by Tattva Permaculture
Led by Mohnish Lahir for Tattva Permaculture, the workshops were designed to provide participants with a holistic exploration of organic farming strategies, and a sustainable lifestyle. As a part of this, techniques for growing plants were explored along with the ‘permaculture approach’, tending to gardens, making compost, and more.
Hansel Vaz conducted two workshops—Goa’s Coconut Vinegar: A Comparitive Tasting of a Forgotten Culinary Gem, and Feni Deconstructed: A Sensory Experience.
Goa’s Coconut Vinegar: A Comparitive Tasting of a Forgotten Culinary Gem by Hansel Vaz
This workshop introduced a first-of-its-kind vinegar tasting to the public, showcasing the vinegar heritage of Goa. Through Vaz’s research, he has found a fascinating array of vinegars used in Goan cuisine, now largely forgotten. Reviving old techniques, this session showcased five of these varieties for everyone to taste, smell, and experience.
Feni Deconstructed: A Sensory Experience by Hansel Vaz
Exploring the intricate world of Feni, a finely nuanced spirit born from cashew or coconut palm, this session dispelled its misconceived ‘smelly’ reputation. Participants got to savour its velvety texture, harmonious sweetness, subtle spiciness, and delicate bitterness, all the while immersing themselves in tropical aromas. Vaz delved into the fascinating journey of Feni, from ripe cashew apples to the age-old bhatti distillation.
Zero Waste Cooking by Chef Radhika Khandelwal
Exploring the journey of food waste from the farm to households, this workshop’s focus was on understanding food waste. The discussions included challenges in the supply chain, the impact of food waste at the restaurant level, along with the chef’s personal experiences in waste reduction.
Conversations on Oviyos by Pratishtha Chettri
This film screening by Pratishta Cheetri threw light on oviyos, or traditional grinding songs sung by women in Goa as they ground wheat and other pulses in the kitchen. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker, as well as tasting of Alle-Belle, a traditional tea-time snack.
Bazaar to Table by Chefs Auroni Mukherjee and Avinandan Kundu
Led by the chefs at Sienna Store and Cafe in Kolkata, the talk explored Bengal’s rich cuisines inspired by local markets, magic realism, and community traditions. They expanded on how the local markets in the region defined not only the Bengali way of life, but also the cooking at Sienna.
Local Ingredients Cocktail Workshop by Pankaj Balachandran
The workshop demonstrated the use of local and regional ingredients from India to create unique and flavourful cocktails. Participants got to taste and experiment with these ingredients, and learn techniques for crafting their own signature cocktails. It was an insightful session for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of culture, tradition, and mixology.
The Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Movement in India by Mansi Reddy
This talk addressed the difference between commercial chocolate and bean-to-bar chocolate, the ethical issues the bean-to-bar movement is rooted in, and the impact of fermentation, farm level practices and factory level processing on the flavour of chocolate. Attendees also got to taste chocolate and nibs from two different origins in South India. Mansi Reddy is the Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Mason & Co in Auroville, Pondicherry.
The Goan Cooking workshop by Crescy Baptista and Oliver Fernandes
An immersive exploration of traditional Goan cuisine, and a closer look at its distinctive flavours and techniques.
The Poetry Playground by The Alipore Post
The Alipore Post Poetry Playground was designed to make poetry and creativity accessible through guided prompts, allowing participants to engage with poetry and explore writing through a lens of curiosity and play. The workshop began with a poetry appreciation session, with Rohini Kejriwal, the founder of The Alipore Post, reading aloud her favourite poems on food. Participants got a taste of experimental poetry formats including limericks, blackout poetry and found poetry, and the session ended with people sharing the poems that they had made.
Archiving Family Food Traditions and Recipes by Archana Pidathala
Food writer Archana Pidathala talked about what it took to sift through her grandmother’s recipe archive (collected over five decades), and bring it to life as the cookbook Five Morsels of Love. She discussed the radical power of home cooking, the importance of documenting family recipes, and provided a framework for anyone interested in starting a recipe archival or cookbook project.
Ferments of India by Payal Shah
This interactive and educational workshop delved into the rich traditions of fermentation practices in India. Drawing attention to various fermented foods, beverages, and culinary techniques that have been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries, Payal Shah drew parallels between them. It also included show-and-tell, and a tasting of a few different types of ferments.
The 2.7-Billion-year Story of Chicken Curry by Krish Ashok
Led by Krish Ashok, the author of Masala Lab: The Science of Indian Cooking, this presentation delved into the realms of evolutionary biology, biochemistry, physics, and cognitive neuroscience while also demonstrating the preparation of a Goan chicken curry. Cheftzac cooked a Goan Chicken Xacutti curry which all participants got to taste. Krish spoke of the need for a more mindful approach to understanding the origins of our food.
Debunking Food Misinformation Online by Krish Ashok
The internet is rife with food misinformation, much of it aiming to exploit fear and anxiety, and very little of it backed by science. This keynote talk by Krish Ashok dissected the nature of food-related misinformation with practical examples. Thinking tools and simple heuristics were offered for the busy layperson to quickly spot food-related misinformation, and learn to ignore it.
Sowing a Climate-First Future with Minor Millets by Shalini Rajani
Led by millet coach Shalini Rajani, this workshop offered an enriching opportunity to rediscover and integrate ancient, nutrient-rich millets into everyday cooking, aligning with The Locavore’s Millet Revival Project with Rainmatter Foundation. Participants were introduced to an array of minor millets, understanding their distinct characteristics and the vital role they play in a climate-forward approach to food.
Solutions for Human-animal Conflict by Anand Babu Reddy and Nishant Srinivasaiah
With the increasing human-animal encounters and conflicts that often end on a bitter note, a millet and mango farmer from Karnataka seems to have cracked the right share for harmony. For his efforts as a peacemaker, Anand has been highlighted in the media, as his illustrated comic book catches the eye of many. In this interactive session with Nishant, a behavioral ecologist, and Anand, a farmer, spoke about how they collectively devised a solution for such conflicts, especially in the context of elephants.
Film Screenings by Samaj Pragati Sahyog (SPS) Community Media
It’s been an honour for The Locavore to collaborate with SPS Community Media for a series of film screenings at Serendipity Arts Festival. Based in Neemkhada, Madhya Pradesh, they are a leading voice in documenting rural India. Through their documentaries, they’ve brought to the fore the rich tapestry of India’s culinary traditions, especially from remote tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. At the festival, they presented a selection of short and long films, offering insights into sustainable farming, edible wild foods, and the changing landscape of agriculture in a warming world.
As a lead up to the films, there was also a panel discussion with the SPS Community Media team on ‘Culinary Narratives from the Heartland’. Moderated by ChefTZac, the conversation was between Shobhit Jain, Pinky Brahma Choudhury, Laxminarayan Devda, and Milind Chhabra, and broke down how these films have been creating a positive change for the rural communities they feature, as well as the motivations and challenges faced by the team in the process of making participatory documentaries. Two documentaries, Jowar Gatha and Chidiya, Pujara aur Solah Rala Chor served as centerpieces for the discussion. Both films captured the significance of millets in the cultural and agricultural landscapes of central India.
The Locavore Stall
The core mission of The Locavore stall was to champion the local Indian food movement through various mediums including storytelling, partnerships, events, and projects. The stall aimed to bring to life the essence of regional Indian cuisine, while highlighting the significance of locally-sourced ingredients and sustainable culinary practices. Each dish served was a celebration of local ingredients and traditional Indian flavours, reimagined with a contemporary twist.
Some of the dishes served at the stall that used products from The Locavore’s producer partners were Moplah Shrimp/Veg Biryani (Spirit of the Earth), Chana Madra & Aloo Chaat with Himachali Green Chili Chukh (Aamra), Kasundi Grilled Chicken/Prawns with Nolen Gur Syrup (Earth Story Farms), and Dark Chocolate Smoothie Bowl with Mahua Granola (Mason & Co, OOO Farms).
The Village at the promenade at Art Park was an immersive experience that celebrated the rich tapestry of Goan culture, traditions, and culinary heritage. A collaboration between The Locavore, Goa Livelihoods Forum (GLF), and the Indian Institute Of Art and Design (IIAD), it served as a vibrant hub where festival-goers engaged directly with various Goan communities, gaining insights into their unique lifestyles, traditions, and crafts. By bringing together different mediums of art practices, visitors explored various aspects of a village, from the skilled artisans and weavers to food vendors and local cooks.
The Community Kitchen
The centre-piece of The Village was The Community Kitchen, a unique initiative designed to bring the diverse cuisines of Goa’s various communities to the forefront. The Community Kitchen aimed to be a gastronomic microcosm of Goa. With local cooks from distinct regions and communities, it offered a daily menu that rotated, ensuring a fresh and authentic experience every time.
The Village was not just about food; it was about stories, traditions, and a rich heritage that spans centuries. The Community Kitchen showcased dishes from various communities living in Goa—the Goan Catholic community’s Cafreal Paav, Ros Omelette, and the sweet Alle belle; the Muslim community’s aromatic biryanis and succulent kebabs; the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins’ Khatkhate and Ambadyache lonche; the Velip tribals’ Farre and Talkhilo Bhaji; the Karade Brahmins’ Karmat, Mugachyo gathi, and Varan.
At the heart of The Goan Village was The Mandi, a vibrant space meticulously crafted to echo the essence of a traditional Goan marketplace. The Mandi served as a platform for local farmers, vendors, and members of various Self-Help Groups under Goa Livelihoods Forum to come together, showcasing the true spirit of Goan culture and heritage.
Designed to resemble a traditional marketplace, The Mandi featured various stalls and stands, each adorned with a rich array of Goan products. From fresh produce to intricate handicrafts, each stall stood as a testament to Goa’s diverse and vibrant communities. The setting aimed to transport visitors to the bustling lanes of a Goan bazaar, complete with the sights, sounds, and aromas that define it.
Highlights From Our Curation at Serendipity Arts Festival 2023
- 27 desi vegetables were in the spotlight at our Know Your Desi Vegetable (KYDV) Kitchen, and they were cooked in three different ways, all of which visitors got to taste.
- Around 240 people participated in The Locavore Shuffle, finding the chance to talk to strangers about their experiences and memories around food.
- 350 food zines were created with the help of Zinedabaad Collective.
- We sold over 180 plates of our Grilled Chicken Millet Salad at The Locavore food stall, which included three kinds of millets—kodo, foxtail, and little millet.
- 9 of our producer partners from across the country were represented at The Locavore food stall in dishes like Chana Madra & Aloo Chaat with Himachali Green Chili Chukh, Kasundi Grilled Chicken/Prawns with Nolen Gur Syrup, and Dark Chocolate Smoothie Bowl with Mahua Granola.
- Over 65 recipes were collected and documented over the course of the festival. 28 of these made their way into The Festival Cookbook, which you can buy from here. 22 of them were archived in audio form through A Longing for Home Food Booth. You can listen to them here.
- Over 50 women from 25 SHGs across 12 Talukas of Goa were a part of the The Village at the Art Park with a total of over 100 local dishes showcased from various communities.
- A total of 52 collaborators—including cookbook authors, chefs, filmmakers, and farmers—conducted workshops at the Food Lab.
- In The Locavore’s kitchen, 9 cooks cooked over 56 dishes in nine days.
- Over a 100 pieces of delicious art were generated from our Paint With Food activity at The Grove.