Such directives have often led to relegating the food of particular social groups to a remote, primitive position, she said.Kikon argues that the process of making and eating fermented food is much more than a “simple matter of eating and taste”. Read on to learn how to deodorize dishwasher. One has to be considered adventurous to negotiate with a dish made of axone,” she said.There are two ways of making axone: either dry or like a paste. “The feeling of being ‘different’ may strengthen sentiments towards one’s own community.

A few days later, she found the soya had fermented, with a unique smell.

It is fermented in a semi-coarse soya bean paste, and … Notably, it is the Sema tribe — living in the southern part of the state — which is to be credited for preparing the best axone. “Fermentation is what lends it its distinct smell and taste,” said Kakati, “It has the fifth element of our basic taste senses, and invokes the elusive umami flavour profile which is difficult to define and yet elevates any dish.” In fact, it is this smell …

The film which talks about discrimination and racism based on cultural identity has quite an interesting metaphor for it throughout the film. Sponges go bad.

When we were young, we were not allowed to even burn a piece of paper in that fire lest it interfered with the flavour of the axone,” she said.After it is fermented, the beans are mashed, made into cakes and wrapped in banana leaves and kept near the fireplace to ferment further.

“Fermentation is what lends it its distinct smell and taste,” said Kakati, “It has the fifth element of our basic taste senses, and invokes the elusive umami flavour profile which is difficult to define and yet elevates any dish.” In fact, it is this smell which gives it its name. “It imparts a lot of flavour to anything you cook — even vegetables,” said Aditya Kiran Kakati, a historian and anthropologist, who has done ethnographic research on the emergence and mainstreaming of ‘ethnic’ cuisines of Northeast India.While it is called ‘axone’ in parts of Nagaland, fermented soya bean is cooked with, eaten and known by different names in different parts of Northeast India, including Meghalaya and Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur as well in other South, Southeast and East Asian countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, Korea, “It [fermented soya bean] is the one food that connects the Eastern Himalayas,” said Dolly Kikon, Melbourne-based anthropologist, who is currently researching fermentation.According to Kakati, it is possible to demystify axone because it is more “culturally cross-cutting” than one would expect it to be. Anecdotal accounts from members of the Northeastern community living in big metros often allude to that.In fact, Kikon refers to how in 2007, due to increasing “akhuni conflict in New Delhi”, the Delhi Police produced a handbook that “cautioned students and workers from Northeast India that they should refrain from cooking axone and other fermented foods”. For example, as per a Sumi folktale, axone was an “accidental discovery.” “Legend says that a young girl, who worked as a domestic help, would be sent to the fields to work only with boiled soya bean and rice to eat,” said Zhimomi, “It was inedible, so the girl kept the soya bean aside, wrapped in a banana leaf.
In Nagaland, axone is considered as a common fermented product, prepared round the year by people of all tribes. Regardless of whether it's old or new, a sponge can pick up a funky smell that gets on your hands, the dishes, the counters… As much an ingredient as it is a condiment, axone used to make pickles and chutneys, or curries of pork, fish, chicken, beef etc. She decided to use it in a dish and that is how axone was discovered.”Scholars feel that despite the increasing visibility of the ingredient on restaurant menus etc, a racial politics of sorts has emerged around axone. “Or even bamboo shoots, for that matter,” said Kakati, adding that discrimination on the basis of smell of such fermented food could often “lead to experiences of exclusion”.


Axone is made by fermenting soya beans.

The starting point of looking at differences when living in the city is when one starts cooking something like axone and fermented dry fish, which tend to offer a pungent smell.

“It belongs to the broader phenomena of fermentation necessary for food preservation in certain ecological contexts. This paste-like form of axone is used to make curries and stews of fish, pork, chicken etc.

Akhuni gets its name from two words from the Sumi dialect, Axo-ne. “Instead, they are connected to a larger politics of articulating assertion and dignity,” she said.Kakati agreed and said that directives such as the one by Delhi Police or other instances of profiling by landlords may contribute to the otherisation of the community — but conversely, may sometimes lead to strengthening of internal community sentiments too. This is then kept over a fireplace in the kitchen for the process of fermentation to start. The preparatory steps for both are the same. Thereafter, the water is drained and the soya beans are put in bamboo baskets lined with banana leaves.

“In Mumbai and Delhi, you will go looking for ‘natto soybeans’, but axone — essentially the same thing — is still alien to the mainstream consumer. Now the name and subject of a much-talked about feature film, axone — or fermented soya bean — is cooked, eaten and loved in Nagaland, and many tribal communities in different parts of Northeast India and beyond.


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