Covid-19 and the Politics of Gastronomic Consumerism in Pandemic India

Minu Susan Koshy, Abina Sulhath


Food culture has always been a definitive marker of identity throughout the ages, reflecting transformations social orders have undergone over time. Consumerism finds its most potent manifestation in food cultures, especially in terms of the type of food consumed (imported, ready-to-eat, frozen etc.) and the modes in which it is consumed (at restaurants, dine-ins, online ordering). The Covid-19 pandemic situation saw drastic transformations in the way Indians perceived and consumed food and drinks, with the gig economy and home-made food industry flourishing. The lockdown and associated restrictions led to a sharp decline in the number of people eating out at restaurants, hotels and cafes. Besides, the work-at-home culture made leisure possible for a significant section of the middle-class, propelling the subjects to cook at home, often leading to the emergence of local food-based start-ups. Domestic servitude declined due to the upper-class suspicion of maids and “lowly” domestic employees who came from “unclean” locales. As such, homemakers and working subjects, especially women, began cooking on their own, leading to innovative food cultures and novel modes of gastronomic consumerism. The paper attempts to explore the multifaceted modes in which the Covid-19 situation propels transformations in gastronomic consumer culture and the “culture industry” in India, as revealed through surveys, published reports and social media pages. The study would also engage with the modes in which gender, class and caste intersect with pandemic consumerism in the gastronomic arena, thereby developing a holistic perspective on how it affects consumer and food cultures across social groups in India.

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