My first impression on seeing the cover of Ragi-Ragini was ‘rustic’, and this 100-page book lived up to its rustic cover image.
It’s tough to term this unusual book as a cookbook. There are three parts to it, all woven together. One is the story of the fictional Ragini. Having lost her mother at birth, she was brought up by her grandma and aunt in a Konkan village. Frail and uncared for, she attributes her life to the nutritious powers of ragi, the extract of which she was given as an infant.
The second aspect of Ragi-Ragini are the ovis, or couplets, written by Bahinabai, a Marathi poet who wrote about life, its hardships, women etc. The poems (several of them are in the book) are written in Marathi, and in its English transliteration can only be appreciated by people who understand Marathi.
The third part, the recipes, focus on Ragi as the main ingredient. While they are a good mix of the traditional (bhakri, laddoo, etc) and the modern (cookies, cakes, custard), I found them to be mostly sweet. There’re only a few savoury recipes, like bhakris and savoury porridge. Also, most recipes are like how your grandmom would instruct you, not exact quantities. While it’s okay for traditional recipes, when baking cookies, it would be a problem if it’s said: ‘as much ghee as you would require to make a dough’.
This book is a nice melange of poetry and the traditional grain. I wouldn’t exactly call this a book that cookbook lovers would love to collect, more like a gentle insight into village life, interspersed with ragi recipes.