Multiple novelists and poets across the globe have illustrated the nationalism of fruits, vegetables and foods in their writings. In multiple popular pieces of literature, fruits and foods are presented as representatives of monolithic, exclusive and unique national identities.
To peck some examples from Pakistani literature, Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes, borrowed mangoes, a prototypical representative fruit of Pakistan and India, as the grand totem to explore the bomb blast on the 1970s’ narrative of Pakistani nationalism. Moreover, the photo of a full ripe yellow mango metaphorically taken as a bomb, on the book’s jacket, predicts that the scatter of this case of exploding mangoes would hard to be handled for the future generations of Pakistan.
Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist too glamorizes the nationalism of jalebis and tea to the extent that on reading it, even someone living in Antarctica would be compelled to visit Pakistan, at least once, and relish the jalebis and tea of Lahore’s Anarkali bazar. In particular, a Pakistani reader, while reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist, could never resist but relish the sweet richness of nationalistic hubris enriched in Anarkali’s jalebis and tea.
“the quality of its tea, I assure you, is unparalleled.”
“Do try these sticky, orange sweets—jalebis—but be careful, they are hot!”
Similarly, Vikram Seth, Indian novelist and poet, elaborates on the nationalism of mangoes in his amazeballs poem “Panipat”. The narrator of the poem is confronted with an internal war, intense and persistent like the series of Panipat wars, over the conflict of the real home. The narrator tries “family, music, faces, / Food, land, everything”, but fails in re-connecting with his national identity – which is Indian. In this hopeless situation, the king totem of Indian nationalism, mango comes to the rescue of the narrator. The moment the narrator sees the mango slice with the seed, he couldn’t resist but have a reunion with his national identity.
“My cousin slices a mango
And offers it to me.
I choose the slice with the seed
And learn from the sweet taste,
Well-known and alien,
I must be home at last.”
Likewise, Seamus Heaney, Irish poet’s popular poem “Digging” accentuates the nationalistic prominence of potatoes in Ireland. In Heaney’s “Digging”, potatoes emit the cold smell of Ireland’s troubled history of nationalism.
“The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.”
In Turkish literature as well, there is an over-brimming amount of literary works that celebrate the nationalism of fruits and food. In Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, coffee is being summoned to the discussion multiple times that a non-Turkish like me would start associating Turkey with coffee exclusively. Despite strong condemnation of coffee by Preacher Nusret Hoja of Erzurum in My Name is Red, Turkish people just do not stop the intake of coffee.
“It was then I understood that these men were the henchmen of Preacher Nusret Hoja of Erzurum. They intended to clean up all the dens of wine, prostitution and coffee in Istanbul and punish severely…”
Therefore, fruits, vegetables and food are political entities so much so that a single vegetable, fruit or food could represent an entire nation. You say, jalebis and its Pakistan’s Lahore in the memory. Hold a potato in your hand, and the whole Ireland would start sneezing. Eat and praise mangoes, and get Indian nationality. Drink excessive amount of coffee, and get an air ticket to Turkey for free. Had the world been operated by the cabinet of fruits, vegetables and foods, it must have had some flavor and color for sure.