The Civil War and Mumbai Street Food

This article is poorly written and misleadingly titled, but it is interesting to see the effect the war had on far flung places and mundane realities, in this case, the development of a popular Indian street meal.

This is when a group of Gujaratis began trading in the area now known as Dalal Street, starting Asia’s first stock exchange a few years later. They traded mainly in cotton, and many made fortunes in the period 1861-65 when global supply of the stuff was affected by the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s navy blockaded New Orleans and the Mississippi and Manchester’s looms came to a halt, sending cotton prices shooting. The Gujarati merchant is one of the world’s finest managers of uncertainty and he made a lot of money. These early globalizers worked, as today’s call centre workers, late into the night when rates were wired in and orders wired out at American and European times. By then everyone would be quite famished and the wives would be asleep at home.

This demand for regular food at an unusual time created a unique supply. The traders were served by street stalls that invented a late-night special: pav bhaji.

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