Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is My Mumbai cookbook about?

Even before I signed the contract for My Mumbai Cookbook, I was making big plans. It would be a runaway best seller and become so famous that I would get a book deal out of it and then a TV show et. etc.

My classic case of counting chickens screeched to a resounding halt when I got down to actually writing it. I spen ages agonising over the dedication page, I didn't want to miss anyone! (It it were an Oscar speech I'd have been hrown of the stage). then I decided to write the introduction. After the third day of staring at one paragraph, I decided to come back to it later and moved to the firt chapter. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote. Suddenly nothing sounded right.

So when I had written things out for the sixth time, I took a break and shifted focus to recipe testing. I will say his though, Thank god for the delete key or I'd have made a serious dent in the environment by chucking wads of paper into the bin! And as I tossed up a quick garlic pasta that is to go into the book, something my husband always says when I make it came to mind, “Quickly prepared dishes sometimes turn out better than the most elaborately prepared recipes."

Maybe I was just trying too hard!

I decided to go back to scratch and reading the notes I sent the pblisher with my book structure helped clear my brain. The May 2009 deadline does not look so scary now....

There is a similarity between writing and cooking. Both are activities that come easily to some, who seem to have thrive at them, but are harder for others who have to keep at it. And even the best writers and finest cooks have probably had that moment when all the elements are present in a piece of writing or a dish and yet it lacks that one element that will take it from just plain good to superlative.

But int both cases, there comes a point when one should just let things happen by themselves.... Let the chemistry happen as they say.....

A few excerpts from my notes to my Publisher

As a food writer the aspect of food and foodways and their ability to travel have aways fascinated me and nowhere is a better example of this than the home kitchens of Mumbai.

Food has a way of crossing the divides of community other barriers and over the years this has resulted in a variety of cuisines, their aormas, flavours and tastes all combining into one huge melting pot that is Mumbai.

My Mumbai Cookbook is a memoir with recipes, Shobha Narayan's Monsoon diary meets one of Claudia Rodens books. A culinary diary, let us say of home cooking in Mumbai. It will offer a sampling of various cuisines through recipes as opposed to just the one regional variety.

The primary objective of My Mumbai Cookbook is to bring to the fore a facet of food in Mumbai that seldom gets it's due. The versatility of the home kitchens of Mumbai. Home cooking in Mumbai has permeated the barriers of walls both the physical as well as those invisible ones of religion and community to be assimilated into one large vibrant tapestry. Although Mumbai has a very dynamic dining scene, home cooking in Mumbai tends to only make it to the recipe pages of columns like 'Ghar ka khana'.

A secondary but no less important objective is to document and preserve, a sampling of home cooking from various communities. As life in Mumbai gets tougher by the moment, there is a direct impact on the way we eat at home. Home cooking is getting more homogenous. Traditional recipes are being circuvented for quick cooking, heat and eat foods. My Mumbai cookbook, aims to perserve some of the easier recipes, offering interested a chance to experiment wih dishes from other kichens, no matter how limited their kichen may be.

Cooking is a given with any family and although there are families where men occasionally cook, the onus of the majority of food preparation is still on the woman of the house regardless of whether she has a career or other responsibilities to juggle or not.

The onus of exchange of culinary lore can be largely attributed to women and in a subtle way, My Mumbai Cookbook hopes to highlight this relationship. I am in awe of the amazing strength of women. They are the cornerstone of evolution of home cooking everywhere. By dint of their gender, women and cooking are inextricably linked. In a quest for variety, they also exchange culinary knowledge and recipes and food ways are passed on. Food and emotion come together in women, in a charecteristic unique to their gender. For women feeding a family goes beyond throwing something together, they will refuse to settle for anything short of the best, spend time planning and preparing meals.

And the Mumbai woman is the perfect example of this charecterisic. Whether she is sorting out the freshest tomatoes at Bhuleshwar, fighting for the freshest fish at Koliwada, or digging out the whitest mushrooms from the bottom of the pile at a supermarket in South Mumbai, she has her family’s best interests at heart and nothing short of the finest she can afford will do - even if it means shopping at Grant road vegetable market and cutting and cleaning the vegetables on the train journey home!

1 comment:

The knife said...

I must protest. My dad was a great cook and taught my mom how to cook. Ditto between my wife and me. In fact I have done most of the cooking in our house for the last seven yrs. I am an instinctive cook and don't need recipe books too often. hence my preference for books on food rather than cook books. Off late we have got our maid to cook. I taught her. So now our local Muslim maid cooks up an array of bengali dishes and the odd Chinese and continental one too