ingredients, similar to how a pizza is made. Idli and vada are first cousins to donuts and are served with sambars and rasams , soup like dishes. Southern Indians rely on rice as a main cooking staple, using it for main dishes as well as an ingredient for a host of other popular
dishes. While many of these foods are common across the southern region, each state also has its own signature dishes.
THE RICE FAMINE
Throughout much of India’s history, rice has been a food staple. During World War II, a widespread rice shortage was at the heart of a devastating famine. Historically, India had imported rice from Burma (now Myanmar). But in 1942, Burma fell to the Japanese, and the British banned importing rice from there. Many of India’s own rice farms were destroyed by the military using the land to build airstrips, railroads, and military camps, reducing production even more. The scarcity caused the cost of rice to skyrocket, and it became too expensive for most people to afford. The British-controlled government redistributed rice away from rural districts to feed the military and workers in essential war industries. By May 1943, the first reports of people dying from starvation emerged. In 1944, the British started bringing in food and distributed it to the poorest residents. That year, Bengal also had a bumper rice harvest, so gradually the famine waned—but not before an estimated three million Indians starved to death. The famine and the slow British response fueled the Quit India Movement and hastened India to gain its independence just a few years later.
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