walk a-musing

Friday, September 19, 2008

Down Recipe Lane

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I recently bought an old book "Eastern vegetarian cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey, in our charity book shop. It has vegetarian recipes from many Southeast Asian countries where, as is well known, it is extremely difficult to find vegetarian food.

What I found really cute about the book were the names of some of the recipes: Kamal's SWEET TOMATO CHUTNEY, Alun's CACIK (Cold Yoghurt Soup in Turkish Style), Mrs Wawo-Runtu's NASI KUNING, Yien-Koo's SPINACH WITH FERMENTED BEAN CURD. Obviously these are the people who taught her those recipes, and she has acknowledged their help in the correct place. It delighted me all the more because I do exactly the same in my recipe book at home.

My beloved sister V who knew about my culinary abilities, set about writing a recipe book for me when I decided to get married and leave home. She bought a 400(!) page book which she divided into many sections - soups, rotis, roti accompaniments, rice preparations, rice accompaniments, sweets,and so on and started to fill them with old family recipes as well as new favourites in her neat handwriting. After the wedding she presented the book to me and advised me to add any new ones I learned along the way.

And I did. Now my book is somewhat worn and contains hundreds of recipes and more importantly, many memories from my culinary journey. The ones in my handwriting have names like Chikkamma's Hitakavare, Prabhu's Kootu, Vijaya Athe's Mavinakayi Chitranna, Anupama's Sindhi khadi, Album Aunty's Bagara Baingan, and so on. When I read the names I am transported back to the time when I first tasted that dish, and where we were sitting as this friend or relative told me how to make it. Sometimes it is the memory of making the dish the first time. Like when I made the Suji Halwa for visiting friends and the milk curdled so that I had to run to the shop to get more. Or when I made the cabbage Pulav for guests and it turned out to be so lumpy. Or when I made the sweet Pongal and my aunt - famous for her absolutely delicious cooking - tasted it and turned to the others and said "After all she is my niece!"

There are some recipes in other hand writings too. Shubha telling me how to make the perfect Methi Thepla, Veena teaching me to make a special Stuffed Bhindi. There is one recipe for a Tomato Chutney in my niece's childish handwriting written as my sister B dictated, which always makes me giggle. My ever mischievous sister has given me minute instructions such as to throw the skin of the tomato into the dustbin and not leave it lying around.

They say perfumes bring back memories. Music does. Photos definitely do. For me, in addition to all these, there is my recipe book.

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