An Indian in Bergen – or a US citizen in Bergen? (or shall we call it – the importance of knowing your Hing”?)

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So we walk around looking for stores where they sell Indian (ish) vegetables, spices and grains and legume – we exhibit mannerisms and mixed accents that reveal us as “ugly Americans”… who are we? Who are we when we whip out an American Express card sheepishly as we run out of Norwegian Kroners? Who am I as I go asking for “hing” from the store checkout person (who is immigrant from either middle east or south Asia but not India, we decide, based on his accent in pronouncing “hing” – but he knows what it is …). A familiar brand – a plastic bottle of asafoetida –

this one –







Not this one below –  and yes… I am still processing why this visual matters – there is a timezone flashback associated with the image above – and a contemporary moment from my U.S based daily living in the image below – perhaps having to do with the routes taken by each of these bottles? Perhaps just random on the part of the stores carrying them – but invoking particular domestic memories from childhood to adulthood – traveling in India and outside India through various kitchens….


But why is hing important? I didn’t realize why until I “missed” this spice in some daal I had made during my phase of experimentation and self-learning (by reconstructing “recipes” through an exploration of taste -memory)… I didn’t actually know then that *this* was the spice missing – until, when I was visiting a friend in 4531 Forbes I smelled it as she plonked a pinch of it into the hot oil “bagaar”/ “tadka”  that was being readied to go into the boiled daal (lentils)… Then came pouring all memories of these bottles and realization that despite my pooh pooh ing of what my mother tried to teach me – I had learned something. What you put in the food and how you prepare it makes a world of difference to one’s state of mind.

Food is home.

But what home – which home – which spacio-temporal home is each of us reaching for?



  1. Posted July 24, 2015 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Next blog post – just as a reminder to myself – is about language and how it “hails” us in the streets – as “home” – whether in Paris or Bergen.

  2. Pallavi Guha
    Posted July 24, 2015 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Loved reading this — resonates a lot. Having lived in a couple of countries, looking for Indian spices etc is like treasure hunting!

  3. Posted November 13, 2015 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    thanks Pallavi!

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