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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

State of the platter

In his 87 years,Kaumudi Marathé’s grandfather had never once eaten out. Every time the family got into a celebratory mood,her mother rustled up special delicacies.

Written by Alaka Sahani |
December 7, 2009 4:13:51 am

With The Essential Marathi Cookbook,Kaumudi Marathé brings more than just Marathi cuisine into the focus

In his 87 years,Kaumudi Marathé’s grandfather had never once eaten out. Every time the family got into a celebratory mood,her mother rustled up special delicacies. And though as a child she was allowed to play outside,her presence at home was compulsory during meal time.

Such domestic quirks are not exclusive to Marathé’s family. According to the author of the just-published The Essential Marathi Cookbook,this used to be the norm in most middle-class Marathi families. “We were not encouraged to eat out. Neither were the Marathis enterprising enough to open restaurants. That’s the reason there are few authentic Marathi restaurants in the city and outside,” says the 41-year-old who lives in California. Since 2007,she has been running a catering company and a cooking school,Un-curry.

In the times of instant noodles,the kitchen dynamics have changed. Very few have time to prepare authentic dishes. And even less are enthusiastic to figure out their recipes. Considering that,Marathé’s efforts in compiling 240 recipes is remarkable. But what makes the book special is the 60-page introduction that reflects the author’s love for food and its history. It gives a detailed outline of a Marathi kitchen (complete with the kind of pots and pans used there),various ingredients,vegetables,spices,the process of cooking and even the way the dishes are served.

“My earliest memories are all related to food,” recalls Marathé,who seems to have inherited her mother’s and maternal grandmother’s culinary legacy. But it’s the documenter within her that propelled her to write the book. “I have been noting down my mother and grandmother’s recipes,since I was a teenager. Good I did that 20 years back for my grandmother is now 90 and has forgotten most of the recipes,” says the author.

While her first cookbook of Marathi food,Maharashtrian Cuisine: A Family Treasury,contained most of these recipes,Marathé has widened the canvas for her latest book by researching and selecting recipes of different communities of the state. “I have tried to present a kaleidoscopic view of the region’s cuisine,” she says.

However,this was not a task she could have achieved alone. She spread the word around; invited contributions; tried and tasted most of them; and the best ones as well as the rare recipes made it to the book. “In some cases,I included the classic recipes and their variations. Some like Khudi,an East Indian chicken dish offer a different flavour while Khadkhadi is so rare,” she says.

The huge number of contributions that she received posed another difficult task. “The book is half its original size. It’s 50,000 words shorter now,” she says. But with her planning to write another book on Marathi cuisine and one on Indian,the deleted material won’t be sidelined for long. However,her next book will focus on the melting pot that the place of her residence is.

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