Cooking with fire


In mid-2015 a diaspora Tamil thambi (younger brother) connected with me on facebook saying he had read a piece I had written a few years earlier about the war in Sri Lanka. After chatting for a bit on facebook, I sent him a link to My Tamil Kitchen.

His reply:  “I see.. you’ve definitely moved on. But im sure the fire is still in there”

His comments riled me. I read this to mean ‘you used to be really political but now you have a cooking blog’.

Wrong. This project is not about some Tamil chick learning to cook and fit into traditional gender roles. It is about resisting the Sri Lankan establishment’s attempts to wipe out a part of the Eelam identity – our food, customs and the community that we build around it.

Six years after the war, the fire is still strong.

Thambi soon realised he had missed the mark and apologised. I respect him for doing so.

The Eelam Tamil community is now dispersed throughout the world. As a result, our identity is changing as it melds with the cultures of our new ‘home’ countries.

Change is not to be discouraged, as there is so much we need to work on: homophobia, transphobia , casteism, misogyny, sexism, racism etc. But there are parts of our identity that I want to hold onto. I hope we all do. Tamil food is one of those things. The Eelam Tamil resistance is another.

As someone who has grown up in the West and can no longer go back home, to a land under occupation, I am a little panicked about all the ancestral knowledge that will be lost with my elders if I don’t learn it with some urgency. All of it.

My Tamil Kitchen is my resistance and my journey through my identity. The delicious food that gets created in the process is a bonus.


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