Douglas Dewar--s book --Jungle Folk: Indian Natural History Sketches-- talks of the times when bird watching was a moment of discovery sans lenses and field guides
Sign In/Sign Up to view the picturesque world, participate in contests and much more
It’s that rare book one is happy to judge by its cover. And its glue-glazed Coptic binding spine, displaying the gathering threads of its folios. And its line-ruled notebook pages, creating that charming conceit of your great-aunt’s treasured binder of recipe scraps. With Annapurna with her ladle and everlasting pot of rice blessing its beginning, like the traditional calendar in any grocer’s shop. If aromas are half the satisfaction of the appetite, for a cookbook, the appearance is half the whetting of said appetite. And Annapurni leaves me curiously comforted as well as eager. Always a good sign when a cookbook makes one’s mouth water, yes?
Annapurni’s is more than just a pretty face, though. That chain-stitched Coptic spine? It is curiously functional in the kitchen, for it allows a fat book to open flat on your countertop. Nostalgia peppers the pages with family photos and friends of friends whose lineage attaches to the culinary concoctions. The arrangement is nice, by cultural provenance and then main flavour (meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, sweets, drinks) within each community grouping. The fonts, selected for mimicking handwriting, the doodles and kolam borders, and scrapbook-style photo framing invite your own thumbprint in turmeric and a splash of coffee as you proceed to dog-ear the recipes.
The feast itself is diverse—something for everyone, something from everyone. No plain idli-dosa-coconut chutney tiffin, this. Filter kaapi, Chettinad chicken and mullagatawny soup are as close as it gets to cliché. Else it ranges through Mudaliar, Vellala, Naidu, Kongunadu, Anglo-Indian, Chettiar and Muslim kitchens to evoke delighted recognition in those hailing from the South and amazed fascination in those not so blessed. There are almond puris and bottle gourd chutney, crumbly eggs and crumbly shark, Christmas cookies and Deepavali cookies, dhol dhol and buffarth, egg halwa and drumstick semolina curry, brinjal rice and brain fry, sweet vadai and snake gourd fry, sheep trotters and plantain stem, Naidu fish and Kongunadu fish and Mudaliar fish, skewered mutton curry and fried mutton with toasted bread, Kanchipuram idli and the Madurai ‘rice cake’ biryani aka thikkadi, to eat with pachadi... Hold on, the list is not so long after all! It fits in two index pages, filled in an uncramped typeface. But that only deepens the savour of a selective hand. And makes it, for all its ostentatious and self-conscious (in the best way!) aesthetics, likely to be the one cookbook that stays open on your counter rather than sitting pretty on a shelf.
Outlook’ is India’s most vibrant weekly news magazine with critically and globally acclaimed print and digital editions. Now in its 23rd year...Explore All