Arts/Society ‘Holy Kitchens’ Films Ponder Religious Side Of Food (Video)

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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
By Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

For Vikas Khanna, a New York-based chef, a meal is about much more than just eating the food that’s prepared.

Mr. Khanna talks lovingly about a meal, the sense of community that accompanies it and the emotions it’s capable of evoking. “Even now, when I eat my mother’s and grandmother’s food, I’m moved to tears,” he says.

The 38-year-old backed a historical documentary about the langar, the Sikh tradition of offering meals to the community as part of a series on religion and food called “Holy Kitchens,” a title his mother suggested. The first of the series, “True Business,” the film on the Sikh community kitchens, screened on Friday at the Sikh Film Festival in New York, the city where Mr. Khanna has been based for close to nine years.

.Perhaps if President Barack Obama doesn’t make it to the Golden Temple at Amritsar after all during his visit to India, he can watch this film instead.

The movie is composed of three parts, gradually tracing the evolution of the langar tradition. “One of the gurus famously said, ‘Even enemies need to be feed. How can people connect to Gods when they’re hungry?’,” says Mr. Khanna.

The idea for the project came about when Mr. Khanna had shot some videos using his personal camera: “Something I bought for about $100 on eBay, but when I showed it to a few people in the U.S., they were so moved by it,” says Khanna. “They said the world needs to know this story.”

The next film in the works is on Hinduism, “Karma to Nirvana,” and is scheduled to be ready by fall of next year, according to the series web site. That’s slated to be followed by “The Moon of Eid.”

Mr. Khanna, who runs a catering company and has been a chef at the Rubin Museum Cafe, is also about to open his new restaurant Junoon in New York City the first week of November.

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