Known for their penchant for discovering forgotten flavours and quaint Indian cuisines that are slowly disappearing from India's culinary map, The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai, is hosting the fifth
edition of its Independence Day Daawat. The concept was initiated in 2015 with the idea of giving back to the community, where patrons pay as per their will for
the meal on August 15. This year, the restaurant has partnered with Naandi Foundation, a
charitable trust involved in sustainable agriculture in tribal areas such as Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh, and a champion of several other
socio-economic issues, such as malnutrition amongst children. The proceeds from the Independence Day Daawat will be donated to Naandi.
Explaining their choice to associate with Naandi Foundation, Sameer Seth, partner at The Bombay Canteen, says: "We create a horde of themes around our meals and often tend to overlook the most important aspect–its source, the farmer.” The idea was to support an initiative that is sustainable, long term and impactful. “Farmers are the community we should all be focusing on, but tend to often ignore. The farmer toils to give us the produce we create sumptuous meals from," adds Seth, elucidating on Naandi Foundation's work in the area of sustainable farming. Naandi Foundation empowers farming communities and their work with the tribals of Araku Valley has received global attention, with Araku coffee topping the charts in French cafes.
In the last four years, TBC's Independence Day Daawat has become a talking point and is a luncheon where people from different strata of society, from the staff of Kamala Mills compound where the restaurant is located, to Mumbai's swish set that walks in for a meal. “At the very core, the idea has always been to start a conversation," says Seth, adding that it doesn’t stop at a single charity meal. The focus is the bigger picture, how a meal can spark a conversation about the struggles of farmers, their unseen work, and all the effort involved in putting food on our tables.”
Manoj Kumar, the CEO at Naandi Foundation says he cannot quantify at this point how much the initiative will help the foundation but that has never been something they focus on when they start out. “Our entire goal is of sustainability. Every one of us looks at sustainability in the long run and our farmers face the same challenge. We have created coffee and pepper plantations with the help of Adivasi farmers in the region of Araku in Andhra Pradesh and we are aiming to build on it with the proceeds that are raised from this meal. Restoring their land and forests and making it productive, we aim to build fruit orchards in Chedu Put, a small village on the outskirts of Araku. Araku has seen phenomenal growth and with the number of farmer families have been empowered and the fact that we have been able to see such a drastic change in the way they lead their lives, with better quality seeds being made available for them to populate the land with, improvement in farming practices such as composting and progress in the products used. When we met the Bombay Canteen team, it was very clear that their approach and intention was larger than life and long term. It was an immediate collaboration and we hope to continue this association for much longer than Independence Day. We are already discussing developing the area with their help, even post the Daawat.”
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The Bombay Canteen’s Independence Day Daawat will be hosted on August 15, 2019. The menu features dishes from across the various states of India, starting with drinks like Aam Panna from Uttar Pradesh, and Kokum Sherbat from Karnataka. The festive mood is kept alive through tri-colour papads and a variety of pickles. Arunachal Pradesh’s Chicken and Bamboo Curry and Punjab’s Mutton Kheema will be the highlights of the meal. The dishes are thoughtfully curated and come with their own story depicting India's rich and diverse culinary delights.
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Images Courtesy: The Bombay Canteen