Everybody knows Gujarati Cuisine is distinctively vegetarian. With about 65% of the state's population shunning meat it has to be, but it's culinary versatality is legendary. A versatality underlined in the number of regional cuisines found within the state itself. One such regionally distinct cuisine is that of the Palanpuri Jains.
Jainism teaches that every human is responsible for his/her actions. It believes that all living beings have an eternal soul or jīva and insists that Jains live, think and act respectfully, honoring the spirit of all life. Jains view God as the unchanging traits of the pure soul of each living being and nonviolence extends to every aspect of their lives including their culinary practices.
Jains go beyond just shunning any kind of meat, their stance on nonviolence proscribes even food obtained with unnecessary cruelty. Observant Jains do not eat, drink, or travel after sunset (which is called Chauvihar) and always rise before sunrise. They do not eat root vegetables like potatoes, carrot, radish, ginger, sweet potato, white yam, because to obtain them is an unnecessary of the life of the entire plant. Garlic and onions are shunned as they are bulbs that germinate into plants.
Other foods like Brinjal, cheese, cream, honey, raw milk and yoghurt, stale food (because eating such food involves the killing of various kinds of microscopic creatures and germs) are veiwed as generative of life and so eating them amounts to violence, fruit salad, ice‑cream, fruit‑yoghurt combinations and all antibiotic medicines are prohibited. Infact even green and raw vegetables are prohibited on certain days and many Jains choose to be vegan due to the violence of modern dairy farms.
While the jain community all subscribe to similar food proscriptions there are regional differences amongst them as well. With the area of Palanpur being closer to Rajasthan, the proximity manifests itself in their cooking with increased use of ghee.
Illustration from front cover
Dadima no Varso which translates to "Grandmother's legacy", is a veritable tome of a book published by the Palanpuri Samaj Kendra. It was the brainchild of Nita S. Mehta, Rajul A Gandhi and Dr. Satyavati S. Jhaveri but it is the hard work of the 35 ladies that make up the Rachna group of women. When it came to chosing a name for the book, Dadima no varso seemed a logical choice, because the recipes were all collected from grandmothers.
What began as a cookbook to document speciality recipes soon grew into a guide to younger generations, encompassing every aspect of the communities culinary traditions as research revealed recipes and aspects of the cuisine unknown to the authors. "This is our contribution to society" says one of the ladies, "others contribute money, we have contributed our time.
And time consuming it was, with all the recipes being collected in the words of the grandmothers and measured in handfuls and pinches and then tested for exact measurements by the ladies of the group. Then with the book printed simultaneously in two languages - Gujarati and English versions of each recipe alongside each other - it also required close scrutiny by people with a grasp of both languages and culinary skills as well.
That this is a labour of love shines through with every page you turn. There are recipes for everything from celebratory dishes for festivals to fasting dishes for the Jain paryushan period and even mouth fresheners for the end of meals.
Illustration from back cover
There are color representations of every dish in the photographs in each section but in addition to this beautiful illustrations and line drawings by Ramchandrabhai Chauhan, an award winning artist augment the pages of this book, offering an insight into the traditioanal foodways and life of the Palampuri Jains.
Illustration from section header
Copies of the book are available from the Palampur Samaj Kendra,
151 Shanti, August Kranti Marg, Mumbai 36.