Indian Biscuits: 1947-2022
May 12, 2022 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Vittles is consistently putting out great writing. Worth the subscription
posted by The River Ivel at 12:23 PM on May 12

Her piece All Too Much: The Absurdity of the Tandoori Momo is wonderful. I grew up in Delhi but (alas!) left in '86, so I missed out on this monarch of street food. Just as I missed out on the "Hide and Seek" and "Little Hearts" biscuits!

(I wonder if I can convince someone to send me a barrel from India....)
posted by phliar at 3:13 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

Nice post! Of course I have to nitpick: But unlike what its name suggests, the tutti-frutti produced by Nilon’s contained only papaya, which is native to Maharashtra and easy to grow Papaya is native to mexico/central america.
posted by dhruva at 3:23 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Well, India is the leading grower of papaya in the world, at least. But, not of the oats you need to make the best biscuits, hobnobs.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:51 PM on May 12

Thank you, this is the kind of thing I’d never find. Excellent post!
posted by Vatnesine at 8:20 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Metafilter: an excellent essay on the industrialisation of the biscuit.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:17 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

Thank you for posting this! My parents (born in the 50s, left India in the 80s) are definitely Parle-G people. I'd never thought about the biscuit as a symbol of nation-building, but it makes sense. Looks like that was an ad campaign in 1947. Nowadays they go for the cute kid model of advertising; the Parle-G toddler is like the Indian version of the Gerber baby.

I'm curious about the assertion that wheat wasn't common before the British occupation of the subcontinent. Are they referring specifically to maida (white flour)? Because chapatis have been made with atta (whole wheat flour) since ... the Indus Valley civilizations, apparently. But yeah, industrialization only really took off after Independence and Indian farmers didn't have to keep exporting their wheat to Britain. Of course it took time to build that infrastructure. My mother remembers the wheat charity rations in the her account it was full of ergot and pests, had to be picked over before use.
posted by basalganglia at 8:14 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]

The assertion that "bread and biscuits – […] are, as historian Lizzie Collingham notes, the most ‘durable way to preserve wheat’." is surely slightly wrong. I think the precise version is even more historically interesting.

Whole grain wheat keeps very well if dry; unlike whole grain rice it doesn’t go rancid quickly. And sweet refined biscuits go off - moldy, rat-eaten - faster than grain in the conditions that fail whole wheat.

Biscuits, hung on a rafter in a dry cold climate or shrink wrapped in a hot humid one, don’t last longer than wheat but they last longer after cooking. Mass produced food frees a lot of cooks from the kitchen and frees eaters from having to be near a kitchen. Allows for a lot more urbanization.

I remember an article about the Parle-G factories and distribution system in the early pandemic figuring out how to keep working because so many people were walking a long way home on little else than biscuits.
posted by clew at 9:03 AM on May 13

There's a restaurant near me that does tandoori momos, I guess maybe I need to order from them next time I do delivery.
posted by tavella at 11:01 AM on May 13

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