Annual net migration to Britain has hit a record level of 330,000, according to the Office for National Statistics. One article stated: ‘hundreds of thousands of migrants are flooding into Europe from Syria and Africa, leaving a number of countries struggling to cope.’

Migration has become a numbers game. People are fleeing their homes and travelling across seas as a matter of life and death, yet ‘a number of countries are struggling to cope’. Is it not strange how we make a country a home? We make it a place of belonging, yet we never really belong to a single place.

If we trace back our roots and genealogy, Britain is swept in a long history of colonialism and Imperialism, of which cultures amalgamated and gave countries like those in the Indian sub-continent the right to free movement.

London is one of the world’s most booming cities and is also one of the most multicultural, harbouring foods from different cultures with every step one takes.

Producer of the programme ‘Vattan Ki Khushboo: MasaloonKa Safar’ explained that the migrant experience has been told from various angles but it is actually so complex and layered. Food is an integral part of the many facets that makes up the migrant experience, hence the programme focused on this as a method of bringing out and understanding the story of the Indian sub-continent.

He continued that he was fascinated by the merger between two cultures coming together – that of the British and South Asian – and also with the softer side that includes understanding differing perspectives of migration between the first, second and third generations.

What reoccurred between the generations, Manish realised, was how women so seamlessly brought the culture from their country to the UK through their use of spices. It warmed his heart, he explained, to see how they brought up families and children without feeling dislocated and deprived of those values they grew up with in the subcontinent.

Chef ManjuMalhi, who also joined Manish and I in the studio, explained that migration has also enriched the lives of the host country. Migrants seemed to integrate effortlessly. I agreed after hearing my own grandma’s story of how she came to England and could not speak English, but the shopkeepers would teach her how to say certain words.

Manish explained how the common heritage is part of the reason why Britain and India have a shared legacy. One of the main reasons Britain travelled to India is for the spices, according to Manish. And when Britain left India, and the Queen invited Indians to the palace, she served them Indian snacks.

According to Manish, ‘India was the jewel in the crown’.

Migration today may be a numbers things but Manju explains the beauty of finding Asian supermarkets down the street and having easy access to spices. It means that people are able to retain as well as share their culture.

Another beauty about Asian food is that it is well-balanced. We have a nation obsessed with what they are eating and how many calories their food contains, but Indian, Manish stated, did not have to worry because they were satisfied with their food.

Manju explained that the more processed the ingredient, the more calories and less nutrients it contains. Hence, we have recently heard in the news that we should adopt a Mediterranean diet because the way they cook their food means they retain the nutrients. Although Manju did state it is difficult to eat a salad during winter months in the UK!

While creating ‘Vattan Ki Khushbhoo’, Manish discovered how Indians and South Asians have left their lives behind and lived for more than half a century in Britain yet have managed to transport the same values, flourished and made this country their own.

Manju had a similar experience where she discovered how much tradition people retained through the use of spices and when cooking.

During my two episodes with Manju, I had a discovery of my own! I absolutely love eating food and regularly try different cuisines. I often-times do this as a method of understanding a different culture and connecting with a group of people. It is amazing how one is able to empathise with people from a different region through their food, and how food retains such cultural depth, traditions and values.

They say ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. Actually, the saying does ring true if you understand it metaphorically. Through food, you really can understand ‘man’s’, or ‘mankind’s’ heart.